Distressed Florida congressman Matt Gaetz compared allegations of sexual misconduct involving a minor to trademarks, a congressional process by which beneficial spending measures for representative districts are linked to legislation.
“I am wrongly accused of exchanging money for ugly favors,” he said, speaking to Republicans in Ohio on Saturday.
Gaetz also stated that he wanted to be “Robin” for Jim Jordan’s “Batman”.
Jordan is a representative of Ohio and a far-right House leader, like Gaetz, a vocal ally of Donald Trump. He is also being sued in the scandal, for his alleged breach of sexual violence by a team doctor while Jordan was a wrestling coach in the state of Ohio. Jordan denies wrongdoing.
Gaetz is reportedly under investigation for alleged sex trafficking involving an underage woman, other alleged payments for sexual and drug use, and possible influence peddling with representatives of the medical marijuana industry.
He denies any wrongdoing and has said he will not resign. But his outlook darkened on Friday when a former partner said he would plead guilty in Florida court on Monday to charges, including paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl.
Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector, did not name any other men in his plea deal, but he is believed to be likely to help prosecutors investigating Gaetz.
Also on Friday, the Daily Beast cited two sources who said that a woman the website said Greenberg would identify as having been paid for sex accompanied by Gaetz at a “cocaine-fueled party” after a drive-by funds in Orlando in 2019. The website also said the woman got “taxpayer-funded no-show job” through her connection to Greenberg.
A public relations firm hired by Gaetz told The Beast he would not comment, but that “the privacy of women living in private life should be protected.”
Republican House leaders did not take action against Gaetz. On Saturday, the congressman spoke at the Ohio Political Summit, a Republican event in suburban Cleveland.
“I am wrongly accused of exchanging money for ugly favors,” Gaetz said. “Yet Congress has restored a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through postings, and everyone knows that is corruption.
Earmarks has been out of Congress for a decade, but both parties now support their use. Some observers say the postings promote bipartisan cooperation.
Gaetz also took a chance on fellow Republican Congressman from Ohio, Anthony Gonzalez.
“Is it likely that Anthony Gonzalez’s congressional career could mirror Anthony Gonzalez’s NFL career?” Gaetz asked. “Lots of hype, first-round draft pick, four years from now.”
Gonzalez was a wide receiver who spent five years with the Indianapolis Colts, which made him the 32nd and final pick in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He also had a brief stint with the New England Patriots. He was not at the event in Cleveland but appeared to berate his colleague, albeit obliquely, on Twitter.
“Ending the exploitation of children remains one of my main political initiatives in Congress,” Gonzalez tweeted. “Anyone who engages in these heinous acts should be held accountable and taken off the streets.”
At the event in Ohio, Gaetz received a standing ovation.