Rep. Matt Gaetz, a staunch supporter of former president Donald Trump's and a regular face on conservative cable news, is denying allegations of a possible sexual relationship with an underage girl after the New York Times reported Tuesday that the Florida Republican was under federal investigation.
Instead, the outspoken and often controversial legislator claimed he was the victim of "an organized criminal extortion" and that his father had been wearing a wire at the FBI's direction "to catch these criminals."
"No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets [...] of the ongoing extortion investigation," Gaetz wrote in a series of tweets.
The tweets came after the New York Times reported that the 38-year-old lawmaker was under investigation over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him. The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal also reported on the investigation Tuesday night. The Times and the Journal reported that the Justice Department was examining whether Gaetz had violated federal sex trafficking laws.
Asked by Fox News Tuesday night about the allegations involving a teen girl, Gaetz denied them.
"The person does not exist. I've not had a relationship with a 17-year-old," he said.
According to the Times, the encounters occurred two years ago, and Gaetz came under scrutiny during the end of the Trump administration as part of another investigation into a Florida official, Joel Greenberg, who has been indicted on charges that included sex-trafficking a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex.
Gaetz appeared on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight Tuesday evening and said he and his family became aware of a federal probe on March 16, when his father was allegedly contacted via text from someone who asked for millions of dollars to make the investigation "go away." The person claimed photos showed Gaetz with child prostitutes, which Gaetz said did not exist.
"Our family was so troubled about that we went to the local FBI," Gaetz told Carlson. "It is a horrible allegation and it is a lie."
Gaetz said the FBI asked his father to wear a wire as part of the investigation into the alleged extortion, which he claimed involved a former Department of Justice official who now works at a prominent law firm in Pensacola, Florida.
The attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
The congressman said his father was supposed to wear a wire for a meeting with the former DOJ official Wednesday for a "down payment" on what he called a "bribe," but that the meeting was canceled because of the New York Times report.
"I know there was a demand for money in exchange for a commitment that he could make this investigation go away," Gaetz said. "They were promising that [President] Joe Biden would pardon me. I don't need a pardon."
Gaetz told the Times that his attorneys were in contact with the Justice Department and that he understood that the investigation "has to do with women."
"I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward," he said.
He also told Axios that he was "absolutely" confident that none of his previous relationships involved underage girls.
In tweets, he demanded that the Department of Justice "release the tapes" involving the alleged extortion investigation.
Gaetz has been a frequent guest on Fox News, where he has repeatedly pushed false claims of massive voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. As a member of Congress, he's mocked mask mandates to curb the pandemic. Moments after a violent mob stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6, he claimed the rioters were not Trump supporters but "masquerading as Trump supporters."
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to questions from BuzzFeed News.