Fox News host Tucker Carlson expressed confusion on Tuesday after interviewing Rep. Matt Gaetz about an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
The moment: Gaetz, 38, appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” hours after news broke that the Florida Republican is being investigated by the Department of Justice over the alleged relationship.
- According to The New York Times, investigators are examining whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws by paying the girl to travel with him over state lines, but “the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.”
Gaetz did not deny the Times report to Carlson but said the accusations against him are “verifiably false” and that the girl in question does not exist.
- Gaetz repeated that the claims are part of a scheme by a former DOJ official, lawyer David McGee, to extort $25 million from his family in exchange for quashing the sex trafficking allegations using Biden White House connections.
- He demanded the DOJ release what he said were audio recordings his father had made at the direction of the FBI, “which will prove my innocence.”
The Justice Department, the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida, where McGee worked, all declined to comment to the Times.
Later on Tuesday, McGee told the Daily Beast any reports of extortion involving him or his firm were “completely, totally false” and a “blatant attempt” to distract from Gaetz’s issues with the law.
Katie Benner, one of the Times reporters who broke the story, said on MSNBC that McGee is not involved in the DOJ investigation of Gaetz.
Repeatedly pressed by Carlson for specifics, Gaetz avoided saying when he learned about the DOJ’s sex trafficking probe, which reportedly began in the final months of Donald Trump’s presidency.
- But the pro-Trump congressman suggested political forces are trying to take him down and declared, unprompted, there are no “pictures of me with child prostitutes.”
“I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated. You know, I’ve paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not,” Gaetz said to Axios earlier on Tuesday.
- Gaetz, who got engaged to girlfriend Ginger Luckey in December, added he was “absolutely” confident none of the women were underage.
Twice, Gaetz, a regular “Tucker Carlson Tonight” guest, tried to pull the host into his scandal.
- “I’m not the only person on screen right now who has been falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” Gaetz told Carlson at one point. “You were accused of something that you did not do, and so you know what this feels like.”
- “I can say that 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 added, before claiming that the FBI had threatened the woman in an attempt to get damaging information on him.
Carlson replied that Gaetz was referring to “a mentally-ill viewer who accused me of a sex crime 20 years ago, it was not true and I’d never met the person.”
- Regarding the supposed dinner, Carlson said, “I don’t remember the woman you’re speaking of or the context at all, honestly.”
After a commercial break, Carlson informed viewers, “That was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”
- “Don’t think that clarified much …” he said. “Don’t quite understand it, but we’ll bring you more when we find out.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Fox News on Wednesday that Gaetz would be removed from the Judiciary Committee” if it comes out to be true” that he violated sex trafficking laws but first, “let’s get all the information.”
- Asked why Gaetz was the only Republican to vote against a 2017 law that gave the federal government more power and money to fight human trafficking, McCarthy said, “I have no idea whatsoever why he would vote against that.”
Gaetz confirmed to the Daily Beast on Wednesday that he had been considering retiring early from Congress to take a job at a conservative cable news channel, though Fox News issued a preemptive rejection.