On Tuesday night, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) defended himself amid reports he’s under investigation for sexual misconduct with a teenager in a wild interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“That was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted,” Carlson said at the conclusion. “I don’t think that clarified much, but it certainly showed this is a fascinating story, and we’ll be following it. I don’t quite understand it.”
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Gaetz is under investigation for alleged sexual relations with a 17-year-old girl and payments for her to travel across state lines, which would violate federal sex trafficking laws.
“Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime,” he said when Carlson asked about the basis of the investigation.
Gaetz denies the allegations and on Fox News claimed he was the victim of an extortion plot. He said during the interview that the story was leaked to the Times to thwart an investigation into that plot.
He said the plot was the result of him being “a well-known, outspoken conservative.”
Gaetz mentioned, unprompted, allegations that there are photos of him with child prostitutes at one point in the interview.
“That’s obviously false,” he said. “There will be no such pictures because no such thing happened.”
It’s not clear what he was referring to.
At another point, Gaetz claimed part of the plot included an offer of a pardon from President Joe Biden in exchange for his payment.
“Obviously, I don’t need a pardon, and I’m not seeking a pardon,” Gaetz said. “I’ve not done anything improper or wrong.”
No charges have been filed against Gaetz, and it’s not clear what he would be pardoned for or why Biden ― who has yet to pardon anyone ― would preemptively pardon Gaetz.
Gaetz tried twice to lure Carlson into the story.
“I’m not the only person on screen right now who’s been falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” Gaetz declared. “You know what this feels like.”
The Fox News host later said that the accusation was from “a mentally ill viewer” whom he said he had never met and that the allegation was 20 years ago.
Later in the interview, Gaetz mentioned bringing a woman to meet the Fox News host.
“You’ll remember her,” Gaetz insisted as he claimed the woman was later “threatened by the FBI.”
“I don’t remember the woman you’re speaking of or the context at all, honestly,” Carlson said.