Just hours after The New York Times dropped a bombshell story Tuesday that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is being investigated for an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl, the Florida congressman gave a wild interview in which he attempted to rope Tucker Carlson into the allegations surrounding him.
The Fox News host, for his part, wanted viewers to know that he had no idea what the Republican lawmaker was talking about.
The Times reported on Tuesday evening that the Department of Justice is looking into allegations that Gaetz had a sexual relationship with the teenage girl and paid for her travel with him, which could violate sex trafficking laws. According to the paper, the probe was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under former Attorney General William Barr.
Gaetz responded to the story with a tweetstorm claiming that the Times story was a “planted leak” that was “intended to thwart” an investigation into “criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name.”
He added: “No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”
During his appearance on Carlson’s primetime show, Gaetz continued to profess his innocence, saying the allegations about the teenager are “verifiably false” while reiterating his previous claims that the whole situation stems from an extortion plot. The congressman further claimed that his father was supposed to contact the former DOJ official on Wednesday to arrange a $4.5 million down payment on the $25 million extortion bribe but that the FBI sting was blown up by the Times story.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that tonight somehow The New York Times is leaking this information, smearing me and ruining the investigation that would likely result in one of the former colleagues of the current DOJ being brought to justice,” Gaetz added.
The conservative lawmaker then told Carlson that the ex-DOJ employee who is allegedly blackmailing him is David McGee, now an attorney for the law firm Beggs & Lane. He said McGee dangled a pardon in front of him to make the DOJ investigation go away.
“I know that there was a demand for money in exchange for a commitment that he could make this investigation go away, along with his co-conspirators,” Gaetz declared. “They even claimed to have specific connections inside the Biden White House. I don’t know if that’s true, they were promising that Joe Biden would pardon me. Obviously, I don’t need a pardon.”
At one point, in what appeared to be an effort to get Carlson to relate to his circumstances, Gaetz referenced a false accusation of rape brought up against the Fox host years ago.
“I’m not the only person on screen right now who’s been falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” the congressman said. “You were accused of something you did not do, so you know what this feels like.”
A somewhat befuddled Carlson responded: “You just referred to a mentally ill viewer who accused me of a sex crime 20 years ago. And of course, it was not true. I never met the person.”
From there, things only got weirder, as Gaetz tried to get Carlson to affirm on air that the two of them had a dinner with one woman who is apparently part of the FBI probe against Gaetz.
“You and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine, you’ll remember her,” Gaetz said. “And she was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn’t cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme that she could face trouble.”
He added: “And so I do believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to smear me, you know. Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime. And I’m just troubled that lack of any sort of legitimate investigation into me… would then convert into this extortion attempt.”
Carlson, taken aback, immediately replied: “I don’t remember the woman you are speaking of or the context at all, honestly.”
The Fox News host went on to ask who the 17-year-old girl was and if Gaetz ever had a relationship with her, prompting the congressman to insist that “the person doesn’t exist.” As for Carlson’s question about how long the DOJ investigation into him has been going on, Gaetz wouldn’t answer and instead pivoted to the supposed extortion plot, which he said began on March 16.
“The FBI and the Department of Justice must release the tapes that are in their possession that were done at their direction,” Gaetz said at the conclusion of the bizarre interview. “Those tapes will show that I am innocent and that the whole concept of sex charges against me was really just a way to try to bleed my family out of money and probably smear my name because I am a well-known, outspoken conservative, and I guess that’s out of style in a lot of parts of the country right now.”
After returning from commercial break, a stunned-looking Carlson remarked on his strange conversation with Gaetz.
“You just saw our Matt Gaetz interview. That was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted,” he said. “That story just appeared in the news a couple of hours ago, and on the certainty that there’s always more than you read in the newspaper, we immediately called Matt Gaetz and asked him to come on and tell us more. Which, as you saw, he did. I don’t think that clarified much, but it certainly showed this is a deeply interesting story and we’ll be following it.”