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Opinion: What it would take for the GOP to gut Gaetz

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Gaetz, a loyal infantryman of former President Donald Trump and a Fox News darling, is embroiled in scandal. The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz had a relationship with a 17-year-old girl, whether he was involved with other young women, and whether he broke federal laws on sex trafficking and prostitution, according to people informed on the matter. also examined whether federal campaign money was involved in paying for women’s travel and expenses, a source said. Gaetz said “none of the allegations against me are true.” He denied paying a woman for sex, insisting the 17-year-old does not exist and that he was the victim of an organized criminal extortion plot, which the FBI is investigating separately .

Sources also told CNN that Gaetz bragged about his sexual escapades on Capitol Hill and showed other lawmakers nude photos and videos of women he said he slept with. (There is no indication that these images relate to the Justice Department’s investigation.)

Gaetz’s office released a statement on Friday announcing that he and his communications director had separated, without explaining why.

This scandal has developed at breakneck speed. But will his career end? And will the GOP take a hit?

The answer is still not clear. To be sure, there is a long history of politicians who have had to deal with their own career-ending misconduct, the fallout having often harmed their parties. Arkansas Democratic Representative Wilbur Mills first survived a scandal in October 1974 when he was found in a car with Annabel Battistella, a stripper named Fanne Fox who was billed as the “Argentinian firecracker”. Mills won re-election, but Democrats pushed him to resign after he appeared drunk on stage with Battistella at a Boston club. His downfall helped young Democrats push through reforms that weakened the position of senior Southern Democratic committee chairs who had long ruled the Roost. In 1976, Ohio Democrat Wayne Hays resigned after The Washington Post published a story about his mistress, a 27-year-old woman. the old clerk named Elizabeth Ray who received a taxpayer funded salary even though she admitted she couldn’t type, drop off, or function as a receptionist. The career of Maryland Republican Bob Bauman, a champion of the religious right and a founder of the Conservative Union of America, ignited in 1980 when he was accused of soliciting sex with a 16-year-old boy. (These charges were later dropped. after completing six months of alcohol counseling). In 1989, Republican Congressman Donald “Buz” Lukens of Ohio was convicted of having sex with a 16-year-old girl, which torpedoed his career and paved the way for John Boehner. to win his seat in the 1990 election. In 2006, Florida Republican Mark Foley apologized and abruptly resigned after reports detailed explicit messages he sent to teenage male pages. His fall helped Democrats regain control of the House in 2006. Yet there is also a long history of politicians surviving their scandals, sometimes with little more than apologies. In 1978, for example, New York Democrat Fred Richmond was able to save his career despite his arrest for soliciting sex with a 16-year-old boy. Rather than deny the events, he said he was sorry, admitted to a moral misdemeanor charge – which was later dropped – and won re-election. (His career later collapsed when he was embroiled in a financial scandal.) Although the House censored Massachusetts Democratic Representative Gerry Studds in 1983 for his relationship with a 17-year-old House page, he is remained in office until 1997. In 1993, police caught Californian Republican Ken Calvert in a car with a prostitute. (Calvert apologized for his “inappropriate” behavior and insisted he didn’t know the woman was up for hire.) He was re-elected and remains a member of Congress to this day. several red flags for its political future. Politicians accused of illegal activity, of course, have always faced crises of credibility, let alone the possibility of prosecution, conviction and imprisonment. Meanwhile, the #MeToo movement has highlighted in recent years the pernicious effects of sexual harassment and misconduct, as well as abuse of power in the workplace. , “being removed from the Judicial Committee is the least we can do.” And while House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said there were “serious implications” and that Gaetz would be stripped of his positions on the committee if the allegations were found to be true, he appeared to accept the word of the congressman from Florida at the moment. “At the moment, Matt Gaetz says that’s not true and that we don’t have any information,” McCarthy said. “Let’s get all the information.”

Gaetz’s biggest firewall, however, is perhaps the Republican Party itself. The GOP has shown that there is considerable leeway for the misbehaved men who are important to the party. The loyalty and support Republicans have shown former President Donald Trump – from the “Access Hollywood” tapes to the numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct brought against him – have made it clear.

While the House is currently on recess, there has been relative silence from the GOP about Gaetz, except for fellow Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan, who have publicly proclaimed their support for him. Gaetz also has Fox News, as well as an entire ecosystem. conservative media which can still offer its support. Despite Gaetz’s odd interview with Tucker Carlson this week, in which he addressed the allegations and denied their veracity, Fox News did not cover the scandal in depth on the air. But it’s not hard to imagine that the coverage of Gaetz’s story could veer into conspiracy theories offered on his behalf, especially given the Congressman’s claims that the allegations are part of a conspiracy. extortion.

The Gaetz scandal will be another test to see how far Republicans are willing to go to protect their own. Over the past four and a half years, we have repeatedly witnessed how the immense partisan power within the GOP overwhelms its moral concerns despite the party’s widespread support among evangelical Christians. As long as Gaetz is seen as valuable to the party and a major player among Trump supporters, it’s a safe bet that the modern GOP will stay with him until the end.

After Trump, it is clear that the Republican Party seems ready to defend just about anyone in the name of power. Gaetz’s political future does not rest on the morality of his actions, but on the power he can bring to the party. If the scandal begins to overshadow its merit, that’s when the Republican Party will escort Gaetz to the door.

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