Matt Gaetz is going on tour. With Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Rocked by a steady stream of leaks about a federal investigation into alleged sex crimes, the Florida congressman is planning to take his case on the road by holding rallies across the nation with Greene, another lightning rod member of Congress.
Their targets? So-called RINOs and “the radical left.“
Together, they plan to attack Democrats and call out Republicans they deem as insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump, such as the 10 GOP House members who voted for his second impeachment after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
Gaetz and Greene will kick off their barnstorming “America First Tour” on May 7 in the mega-conservative Florida retirement community known as The Villages, a must-stop for any Republican candidate hoping to win the state or generate grassroots excitement. The idea is to send a message from the two controversial Republicans: They’re not canceled, they’re not going to be quiet and the infamy their critics attribute to them is translatable as fame and power in the conservative movement.
“The radical left is coming for you. And they know I'm in the way. Come stand with me as we fight back together against this radical president and his far left agenda,” Gaetz says in a new radio ad rallying conservatives to The Villages event.
Gaetz’s decision to step forward comes after weeks of national headlines and top-of-the-news-hour TV coverage related to the revelation that he is the subject of a federal sex-crimes investigation.
Gaetz, who has not been charged, has consistently denied the two anonymous claims against him: that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for prostitutes. The accusations are linked to former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, a former friend who is thought to be trying to cut a deal with federal prosecutors on a 33-count indictment.
Greene, a first-term Republican from Georgia, in February was stripped of her House committee assignments due to her promotion of conspiracy theories and incendiary rhetoric preceding the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Normally voluble and ever-present on cable news as a Trump loyalist, Gaetz was off air for weeks recently as the news cycle took its toll on him.
Now, one of his biggest allies in the conservative news media, Fox’s Tucker Carlson, has begun publicly questioning whether Gaetz is the target of overzealous prosecutors under a Democratic administration that wants to silence conservative voices by smearing Republicans like Gaetz with allegations of sexual impropriety.
“That story essentially destroyed Gaetz, took him off the map completely as a rhetorical force,” Carlson said on his eponymous show. “Whatever his flaws, Gaetz is smart, articulate and brave. Matt Gaetz was one of the very few members of Congress who bothered to stand up against permanent Washington on behalf of his constituents. Now he’s a sex trafficker. So the question is, who exactly did Matt Gaetz sex traffic? We can’t answer that question because no charges have been filed. All that remains is the stigma.”
Gaetz is planning to reemerge publicly on television soon and is likely to appear on Carlson’s show, according to an adviser, who couldn’t give more information on what other cities Gaetz and Greene plan to visit as part of their tour.
One fellow Republican is sure to get a visit from Gaetz: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
Cheney was a leading voice who criticized Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and voted for his impeachment. Gaetz responded by flying from Florida to Wyoming for an anti-Cheney rally.
"Defeat Liz Cheney in this upcoming election, and Wyoming will bring Washington to its knees," Gaetz said on Jan. 28. The Wyoming GOP later censured her.
Two months later, the news of the investigation into Gaetz dropped like a bomb. Cheney got a measure of revenge by calling the allegations against him “sickening” but refused to call on him to resign.
In batting the allegations against him, Gaetz said he was being targeted for his decision “to take on the most powerful institutions in the Beltway: the establishment; the FBI; the Biden Justice Department; the Cheney political dynasty; even the Justice Department under Trump.”
Gaetz refrained from calling out any Republicans in his initial announcement for “The America First Tour.”
“There are millions of Americans who need to know they still have advocates in Washington D.C., and the America First movement is consistently growing and fighting,” Gaetz said in a written statement provided to POLITICO. “The issues that motivate us include ending America's forever-wars, fixing the border Joe Biden broke on day one, prioritizing Americans, not illegal migrants, reshoring industries sold to foreign adversaries, ensuring real election integrity, and taking on the threat of the Chinese Communist Party. These issues are bigger than any one election and we remain ready to take our party and our country back.”
Alex Andrade, a Republican state representative who holds Gaetz’s old seat in the Florida House, said he’s not surprised with the congressman’s reemergence.
“Of course Congressman Gaetz is going about business as usual,” Andrade said. “He committed to fighting entrenched corruption when he first ran for Congress, and he’s not going to be deterred by anything we’ve seen to date. I know I wouldn’t have expected anything else from him.”