Matt Gaetz, a US representative of Florida and former ally of ex-president Donald Trump, has amassed controversy for his far-right political views. Just recently, Gaetz found himself in hot water following a deeply misogynistic speech he made at a right-wing student conference in his home state, where he suggested pro-abortion women look like “thumbs.”
The conference in question was a Turning Point USA Student Action Summit held on 23 July, where Gaetz remarked: “Have you watched these pro-abortion, pro-murder rallies? The people are just disgusting.”
“Like, why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions?” he went on to say. “No one wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.” Following the obvious fallout of backlash he received, the congressman has since doubled-down on his comments.
In a video interview with a reporter from WEAR-TV on Monday 25 July, Gaetz stated: “I find these people who go out on these pro-abortion and pro-murder rallies odious and just ugly on the inside and out and I make no apology for it.” When asked in clarification if he thought pro-abortion women were “ugly and overweight,” the Florida representative responded with a “yes.”
In a myriad of parallel controversies, Gaetz attacked 19-year-old abortion activist, Olivia Julianna, on Twitter. The congressman tweeted an image of Julianna and captioned it “Dander raised.” In response to the bullying and body shaming rhetoric, the pro-abortion activist responded:
“My rule is if you’re going to attack me for my looks you better be hotter than me. And to be blunt Matt Gaetz is one of the ugliest things to crawl out of the pits of Florida.”
Julianna also posted a tongue-in-cheek tweet on Tuesday 26 July, thanking the representative for helping her raise over $50,000 in pro-abortion funds. Following the humorous digital thank you card, the activist updated followers on the now $115,000 total by tweeting, “Matt Gaetz decided to body shame me publicly. So I started fundraising for abortion funds, and in a little over 24 hours we raised $115K. So let me have one final moment of telling @mattgaetz not to fuck with Texas activist[s], and definitely not to fuck with Gen Z.”
In and among this week-long issue with Gaetz comes a swirling (and serious) sexual scandal that undoubtedly shadows the above. When first attacked by Gaetz on Twitter, Julianna reminded followers of a sexual trafficking probe that looms over the congressman.
“Am I not a little too old for you Matt? I know you have a thing for targeting teenagers but 19 is on the cusp don’t you think?” Julianna stated.
The activist made reference (and reminded viewers) of an ongoing investigation into Gaetz following accusations of sexual trafficking and having sex with a minor. A 2021 report from The New York Times (NYT) states that the representative came under investigation in the final months of the Trump administration.
Gaetz, who would have been 38 at the time, stands accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, whom he paid to travel with him. Not only could this show the crime of having sex with a minor, but it also violates “federal statutes [that] make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value,” as per NYT’s account.
Other public figures have lobbied these accusations against Gaetz. Following comments he made that Mike Pence (former vice president of the US) would never become president, Marc Short, Pence’s aide, made a scathing comment in return.
“Well, I don’t know if Mike Pence will run for president in 2024, but I don’t think Matt Gaetz will have an impact on that,” Short told CNN in a televised response to the comment. “I’d be surprised if he’s still voting.”
“I think it will be more likely that he’ll be in prison for child sex trafficking by 2024,” the aide continued. “And I’ll actually be surprised if Florida law enforcement still allows him to speak to teenage conferences like that.”