Rep. Matt Gaetz
(R-FL), who is under federal investigation for allegedly paying a minor in exchange for sexual favors, said Saturday that the allegations against him are comparable to lawmakers who attach earmarks to bills to benefit constituents or special interests.
Gaetz's comments were made at the Ohio
Political Summit in Strongsville, Ohio, where he and other right-wing figures pledged their loyalty to former President Donald Trump
and repeated baseless claims about fraud in the 2020 presidential election
“I’m being falsely accused of exchanging money
for naughty favors,” Gaetz said Saturday at the Ohio Political Summit, “yet Congress
has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that’s the corruption.”
Contrary to Gaetz's comparison, sexual misconduct
with a minor is a crime
punishable by decades in prison, not just a "naughty favor."
Gaetz's comments came just one day after his close associate, a former Florida
tax collector named Joel Greenberg
, agreed to plead guilty to six federal charges and agreed to cooperate with investigators. Greenberg reportedly faced 33 counts in federal court, and one of the charges to which he confessed was "sex trafficking
of a child."
Gaetz claims he has “never paid for sex,” but according to a Daily Beast report on Friday, Greenberg will identify specific escorts the lawmaker paid for sex, including once after a pro-Trump event when he wrote off a hotel stay as a campaign expense.
The Ohio Summit on Saturday was another de facto pro-Trump event, with several Republicans
, including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine
, skipping the event entirely because they knew they would not be welcomed by the crowd of Trump supporters
Gaetz is the latest in a long line of Trump associates who have been accused of inappropriate behavior toward minors, including deceased and indicted financier Jeffrey Epstein, indicted Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell, and former Trump adviser George Nader, who was sentenced to ten years in prison last year.