Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was on Fox News on Tuesday night, defending himself against newly public allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, when he seemed to pull his interviewer into the matter.
He alleged that the woman had been “threatened” by the FBI and told “she could face trouble” if she didn’t confess to authorities that Gaetz was involved in a “pay-for-play scheme.”
“I don’t remember the woman you are speaking of or the context at all, honestly,” Carlson cut in to say, visibly stunned.
Later on in the show, Carlson — still looking surprised — appeared to distance himself further from Gaetz, saying: “That was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”
The Justice Department is investigating Gaetz, a noted ally of former president Donald Trump, over his alleged relationship with a teenage girl, The Washington Post reported, in a probe that began while Trump was still in office. Gaetz has separately insisted his family is being extorted, a claim that is being investigated by the FBI.
Gaetz’s office did not immediately responded to a request for comment from The Washington Post early Wednesday. A Fox News spokesperson pointed to Carlson’s on-air responses to Gaetz during the show.
The interview on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” capped a stunning few hours of news about the Florida lawmaker, who had been investigated for months in secret by Justice Department officials.
After the New York Times broke news about the inquiry on Tuesday afternoon, Gaetz confirmed the probe to Axios and said the allegations were false. He also claimed the probe was “rooted” in a $25 million extortion effort against his family.
In a separate story, the news site also reported that Gaetz, a three-term congressman, has expressed doubts about seeking reelection in 2022 and has even considered the possibility of leaving early for a job at the conservative media outlet Newsmax.
On Tuesday evening, the lawmaker appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” slamming the Times report as an attempt to thwart a separate investigation into his extortion claims. Gaetz insisted there was no 17-year-old and denied any allegations of sex trafficking.
“Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime,” he told Carlson.
Gaetz specifically blamed the extortion attempt on David McGee, a former Justice Department official. McGee denied those claims to The Post, saying he had no connection to the agency’s probe into possible sex trafficking by Gaetz.
At one point, in what appeared to be an effort to get Carlson to relate to his circumstances, the lawmaker mentioned that the Fox News host was falsely accused of rape years ago.
“I’m not the only person on screen right now who’s been falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” the lawmaker told Tucker Carlson. “You were accused of something you did not do, so you know what this feels like.”
With a puzzled look on his face, Carlson responded: “You just referred to a mentally ill viewer who accused me of a sex crime 20 years ago. And of course, it was not true. I never met the person.”
It was not immediately clear what allegations Gaetz was referring to, or if they had been previously disclosed. In a November 2017 opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Carlson wrote that he had been falsely accused of felony rape several years before then by an accountant in Indiana, a woman he “had literally never even seen.”
By the end of the segment, Carlson had not wiped a look of shock from his face. The host said that because “there’s always more than you read in the newspaper,” he and his producers had immediately called the Florida lawmaker to appear on the show and “tell us more” about the federal probe.
“As you saw, he did,” Carlson added. “I don’t think that clarified much, but it certainly showed this is a deeply interesting story.”