Many raised doubts about Gaetz’s claim of a secret son. He never mentioned his son in his biographical data or elsewhere. An old photo surfaced online of Gaetz with Nestor in which the congressman refers to him as a “local student.”
Gaetz told People Magazine in an interview that he never formally adopted 19-year-old Nestor but that Nestor has lived with him since immigrating from Cuba at age 12.
“Nestor is the light of my life. . . . I’ve raised him for the last six years and he is just the most remarkable young man,” Gaetz told Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“I’ve raised Nestor to believe that in our family we treat everyone equally. It doesn’t matter what their background is, what their race is. We treat every American the same and with respect,” Gaetz added as photos of him and Nestor flashed on the screen.
When Nestor appeared in the final moments of the segment, Carlson asked him what he thought about Richmond’s remarks.
“I think it’s kind of unfair to tell someone that they don’t understand because of their racial color,” Nestor said.
The heated exchange between the two congressmen came during a House Judiciary Committee markup of a policing reform bill on Wednesday. Richmond lashed out at Republicans for offering amendments to the legislation, telling them he has worries in his life, like a black son, that they can’t know.
“You’ve never lived in my shoes, and you do not know what it’s like to be an African American male, and all I’m saying is if you are opposed to this legislation, let’s just have the vote, but please do not come in this committee room and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community,” Richmond said.
Gaetz interjected, asking Richmond if he was “certain that none of us have nonwhite children? Because you referenced your black son, and you said none of us could understand.”
“Matt, Matt, stop,” Richmond said. “I’m not about to get sidetracked about the color of our children. . . . It is not about the color of your kids. It is about black males, black people in the streets that are getting killed, and if one of them happens to be your kid, I’m concerned about him, too, and clearly, I’m more concerned about him than you are.”
An incensed Gaetz then raised his voice and yelled, “You’re claiming you have more concern for my family than I do? Who in the hell do you think you are?”
The next morning, Gaetz tweeted a selfie of himself and a young man.
“For all those wondering, this is my son Nestor. We share no blood but he is my life. He came from Cuba (legally, of course) six years ago and lives with me in Florida. I am so proud of him and raising him has been the best, most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life,” Gaetz wrote.
“As you can imagine, I was triggered when (to make an absurd debate point) a fellow congressman diminished the contributions of Republicans because we don’t raise nonwhite kids. Well, I have.”
Many skeptics questioned Gaetz’s story, and throughout the day “Nestor” trended on Twitter. Former congresswoman Katie Hill (D-Calif.) defended Gaetz, who she said is a friend.
“He talks about Nestor more than anything, has done so much for his son & is truly a proud dad,” Hill tweeted.
Richmond did not weigh in on the news that Gaetz has a son when asked for his reaction but did question Gaetz’s ability to prepare a child of color for interactions with the police.
“From his display yesterday, I don’t think that son is going to get an adequate talk that goes with being a person of color in America because I think that the congressman doesn’t get it,” Richmond said in an interview. “We all know that the talk that you have to have, especially with young black males and males of color, about their interactions with police — I’m not sure he has the life experience to give that.”
Eugene Scott contributed to this report.