Skip to Content

Opinion: Matt Gaetz broke Kevin McCarthy for sport

Opinion by Jill Filipovic

(CNN) — As the Republican Party continues its Trump-led descent into the kind of crass and constant drama usually only found on reality TV, one man has emerged to be the breakout star of this ignominious circus: Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.

He succeeded Tuesday in removing Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. Gaetz and other Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy couldn’t forgive him for staving off a government shutdown last weekend with the help of Democratic votes.

McCarthy began an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden despite, so far, being unable to present any evidenced that links the president to wrongdoing. Nevertheless, Gaetz accused McCarthy of being too cooperative with Democrats and the current president. And the far-right Gaetz lined up enough unhinged members of his increasingly unhinged party to remove McCarthy and grind Congress to a halt.

That, clearly, is the plan: not to improve the functioning of the House or deliver for constituents, but simply to break as much as possible. And it’s a strategy that seems to be drawn from former president and former reality TV star Donald Trump, whose actions during his campaign and his presidency seemed more targeted at capturing attention than actually making America great.

The former president decried House Republicans’ infighting, in an apparent reference to Gaetz moving to oust McCarthy, ahead of the House vote Tuesday. “Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves, why aren’t they fighting the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our Country?” Trump posted on Truth Social.

That seven other Republican members of Congress lined up behind Gaetz to oust the speaker also says quite a bit about how unprincipled and vile the party has become. What happens next – who House Republicans could agree on to fill McCarthy’s shoes – is anyone’s guess.

Gaetz and other Republicans object to McCarthy’s leadership in part because the speaker has worked (a tiny bit) with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, and because the House has held votes on sending aid to Ukraine. American voters don’t align with Gaetz: According to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS, a large majority of Americans want bipartisanship and to see their party working across the aisle.

Gaetz is also a man who seems to court controversy and the eye of law enforcement. As the New York Times first reported, he faced a Department of Justice inquiry into whether he broke federal sex trafficking laws after he allegedly had sex with a 17-year-old girl who he also paid to travel with him across state lines. Gaetz was never charged, but his old friend and political ally Joel Greenberg, who was also caught up in the investigation, pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a child, wire fraud, stalking, aggravated identity theft, producing a false identification document and conspiring to commit an offense against the US government.

The DOJ investigation into Gaetz concluded with no charges against him as prosecutors reportedly were concerned that a jury might not find the woman’s testimony credible.

spokesperson for Gaetz told CNN back in 2021 that the congressman had never paid for sex with anyone.

The congressman also has been reported to be the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation encompassing the accusations about sexual misconduct as well as, reportedly, mishandling campaign funds and other possible financial improprieties. Gaetz has denied wrongdoing.

And this isn’t the first time Gaetz has been investigated by the Ethics Committee. In 2019, the day before Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen was set to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Gaetz tweeted, “Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot.”

Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York immediately called him out in a letter to the ethics panel for witness tampering; the Ethics Committee opened an investigation, as did the Florida Bar (from which Gaetz had been previously suspended for not paying dues). The House Ethics Committee admonished him but did not find that his tweet rose to the level of witness tampering or intimidation. The Florida Bar issued an advisory letter cautioning him against repeating his conduct. Gaetz, for his part, deleted the post and apologized to Cohen, but also said, “This is not witness-tampering. It’s witness-testing.”

When he was a member of the Florida legislature, Gaetz sponsored a bill to speed up executions, even after many experts warned that doing so could put innocent people to death. “Only God can judge,” Gaetz said at the time. “But we sure can set up the meeting.” And he was just one of two members of the Florida House who voted against revenge porn laws, reportedly arguing at the time that if a woman sends a nude photo to a partner, it’s the partner’s right to do whatever he wishes with the image. Gaetz has since been accused of showing nude images and videos of women he says he slept with to other lawmakers on the US House floor. Gaetz denies these claims.

He was also the only member of Congress to vote against one bill that would have helped centralize state efforts to combat human trafficking, and has voted against several otherssince.

This column could go on for many thousands more words about Gaetz’s actions. He’s been a loud proponent of the false conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen. He has suggested that the US government “hunt down” its own citizens, tweeting during the George Floyd protests, “Now that we clearly see antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?” After Kyle Rittenhouse went down to a Black Lives Matter protest and killed two people, Gaetz said he might offer him an internship. He has pushed the racist “great replacement” theory that people of color are overtaking White Americans (he says that “the left” took him out of context and that the great replacement theory isn’t defined “solely on race/ethnicity terms.”).

This is the man who led the anti-McCarthy uprising.

Speaker McCarthy isn’t exactly a hero or an admirable person. He has thrown his support behind Trump, gone after Biden without evidence and for political gain, and caved time and again to the far-right wing of his party. He’s hardly a reasonable Republican. But he does at least appear to be grounded and interested in governing, not showboating.

Gaetz, on the other hand, seems interested in a toxic combination of attention and destruction. That so many in his party are following him in his annihilation mission is yet another confirmation that this is not a party focused on getting things done for the American people. It’s a party focused on emulating and grabbing the attention of the reality TV star former president who may have permanently broken this country.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN-Opinion

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

CNN Newsource


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content