Sex Scandal

'Matt Gaetz wants to date your child' billboard appears in Florida

Female aides in Gaetz’s office issued a statement defending him

A billboard has appeared in Florida taking aim at the federal sex trafficking investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)

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POLITICS PRESS GROUP

A billboard has appeared in Florida taking aim at the federal sex trafficking investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). The ads were paid for by the liberal Mad Dog PAC. Claude Taylor, former staffer in former President Clinton’s White House who chairs the PAC, shared a video of the billboard with the caption “Hello, @mattgaetz, any thoughts on our billboard? Reporters are trying to reach to you for your comments.”

The billboard features a photo of Gaetz’s face with the caption “Matt Gaetz wants to ‘date’ your child.”

According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, the billboard was placed on State Road 85 near the Hub City center.

Gaetz has been under intense media scrutiny since The New York Times reported late last month that the Department of Justice was investigating whether he had an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel.

The newspaper later reported allegations that he and Joel Greenberg, a Florida tax collector and ally of Gaetz, had paid multiple women who were recruited online for sex. Greenberg is reportedly expected to strike a plea deal for charges which include sex trafficking a child.

Gaetz has rigorously denied the allegations against him, and has alleged that he and his family are being extorted by former Justice Department official David McGee. McGee has denied the claim against him.

Female aides in Gaetz’s office issued a statement defending him Thursday, in which they said that they stood by him.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, attempting to stare down a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations, is reaching for a familiar, in-your-face strategy perfected over the last four years by the man who fueled his unconventional rise, former President Donald Trump.

Hours after news of the investigation went public, the Florida Republican went on Fox News to deny any wrongdoing and claim he was the victim of an elaborate extortion scheme. Then he wrote an op-ed declaring he "absolutely" would not resign. Gaetz's campaign sent out fundraising pleas blaming the media for trying to take him down.

And on Friday, Gaetz is keeping plans for a longstanding speaking engagement that will unfold squarely in the public eye. It just so happens to be located at the Trump National Doral golf resort, the Miami property of the former president himself.

Gaetz's response to the FBI investigation into whether the GOP congressman broke federal sex trafficking laws and had a relationship with a 17-year-old girl is reminiscent of the combative path that Gaetz has taken from the Florida statehouse to the US Capitol as he became one Trump's congressional allies.

The son of a prominent Florida politician and businessman, Gaetz arrived in Washington in 2017 along with Trump and quickly focused his attention not on forging relationships in Congress and passing legislation but on building his personal brand, going on television and getting close to the new president.

"He really jumped on the Trump train and rode it all the way to the end," said one former Gaetz aide, who agreed to speak candidly about office dynamics on the condition of anonymity. "As time went on, there was a noticeable shift of focus -- more so to what can I do to get on Fox at night? ... Once he had a little taste of that, he couldn't shake it anymore, that became the focus of the office."

It was a strategy that led to presidential Twitter shoutouts, trips on Air Force One and a regular spot in Fox News' primetime guest lineup. But his brash style courting controversy and his reputation surrounding women turned off many of his Republican colleagues, GOP lawmakers and aides say.

Gaetz now has few GOP allies speaking out on his behalf as the federal investigation hangs over his head. Most Republicans are staying quiet.

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