In May 2021, The New York Times dropped a bombshell against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is reportedly under investigation for having sex with an underage girl (17) and for paying for a trip to meet her in person, in violation of federal sex trafficking laws.
The allegations in the NYT investigation are serious and with wide national repercussion, not only in the mainstream media but also in the conservative media, including a harsh interview by Tucker Carlson against Rep. Gaetz.
However, to date, Matt Gaetz has yet to be charged with any crime, and the evidence against him is based on leaks that the NYT released a year ago. The Republican has denied all allegations and says arguing that the allegations are part of a blackmailing scheme to extort $25 million from his family.
Although this extortion scheme was quickly reported to the FBI by his father, most of the public was skeptical of Gaetz’s version in what seemed to be a mission of damage repair.
However, it is worth asking: How credible is Matt Gaetz’s story? Well, as attorney and journalist Glenn Greenwald reviewed: “Although Gaetz’s story was mocked by many as fantastical and bizarre, that part of his story was vindicated last August, when a Florida real estate developer and convicted felon was arrested on charges for trying to extort $25 million from Congressman Matt Gaetz’s father, in exchange for a presidential pardon that would shut down a high-profile sex trafficking investigation of the Republican congressman.”
And, an important detail you may not know: “In November, that promoter, Stephen Alford, pleaded guilty to attempting to extort $25 million from Congressman Gaetz and his family.”
It’s true: being blackmailed doesn’t mean you’re innocent of the allegations, however, the allegations have yet to be confirmed. Gaetz might be guilty, yes, but he’s innocent until proven otherwise… Or not?
The media has already condemned Matt Gaetz
Most of the liberal media, from The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post to USA Today, NBC, or ABC News, have published articles reviewing the allegations against Matt Gaetz explaining the details of the investigation that are known so far, except for one: Stephen Alford’s imprisonment.
On January 27, 2022, an article titled “The sex-trafficking investigation that’s zeroing in on Matt Gaetz, explained” appeared in The Washington Post. In it, the newspaper attempts to answer the following question for its readers: “Did Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) have a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and engage in sex trafficking?”
The first part of the WaPo article, instead of talking about the case, draws a political profile of Gaetz accusing him of being one of the most conservative and radical representatives in Congress. It then mentions the investigation against the representative, explaining that this all started with Joel Greenberg, a wealthy Florida politician who is now a convicted sex trafficker.
“Greenberg, Gaetz’s friend in Florida, has pleaded guilty to charges of sex trafficking of a minor (among a pile of other crimes) and is now fully cooperating with investigators, who appear to be focused on people beyond Greenberg. In fact, several allies in Gaetz’s entourage appear to have turned on him,” reads the WaPo. “Prosecutors have convened a federal grand jury to investigate Gaetz and have had his ex-girlfriend testify, weighing in on his behavior with women and the trips he took with them while paying for sex.”
The newspaper then goes on to explain more allegations against the representative, noting that Justice Department officials reached a plea deal with another friend of Greenberg’s, Joseph Elliccot, whose lawyer said his client saw the Republican representative at parties involving sex and drug use.
Despite the fact that the article should be a full explanation of the case, the WaPo didn’t bother to show Gaetz’s side of the story, nor did it outline the fact that Stephen Alford was arrested for attempting to extort money from the Republican family, matching Gaetz’s account.
In fact, The Washington Post‘s conclusion goes in a pretty clear direction: “Gaetz (…) risks being charged with a serious felony (…) It would be hard to see how Gaetz keeps up with his committee assignments, let alone remain in office if charged, even if he tries to fight it in the court.”
The Republican’s version was systematically ignored
This year, many other media outlets have also devoted articles to Rep. Matt Gaetz’s case without even explaining the Republican’s version.
For example, in January, Business Insider published an article titled “The legal storm around Rep. Matt Gaetz is heating up. Here are 13 key people to watch.”
In that piece, the outlet mentions that a source familiar with the case said he believes “they are nearer to shutting down the investigation” as they close the “testimony from witnesses they believe are crucial to a potential trial.”
In addition, Insider named several people connected to the case, including Joel Greenberg, who would be the most important witness against Gaetz; the representative’s ex-girlfriend, who used to be an intern on Capitol Hill and is unnamed to protect her privacy; Megan Zalonka, former communications director for the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association whom Gaetz allegedly paid to have sex, according to the Daily Beast.
Ten more people are named, and yet Insider ignored one potentially important name in the story: Stephen Alford.
Meanwhile, the media has consistently pounding Matt Gaetz with headlines:
MSNBC News: “Rep. Matt Gaetz, possible sex trafficker, vows to investigate his investigators.”
ABC News: “Gaetz’s fundraising dips as sex trafficking investigation intensifies”
NBC News: “Matt Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend testifies to grand jury in sex trafficking probe.” “The Development suggests the Department of Justice might be moving in closer to indict Florida Republican.”
The media continues to condemn public figures before trials
It’s not wrong at all for the media to run the story about the investigation against Matt Gaetz, the problem is when it deliberately ignores some facts that may change the narrative of the scandal or give the Republicans a fair chance for defense.
Just as what happened in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, whose identity was shredded in the mainstream media before trial and eventually found not guilty of all charges, the media is exercising a smearing job against Gaetz, who is innocent until proven guilty, but who in practice is already convicted in the public eye.
The media’s treatment of the Republican contrasts, for example, with the media’s coverage of the Hunter Biden’s computer scandal and his corruption allegations. There is here, by now, more evidence than in the Matt Gaetz case, yet one was treated as disinformation for a long time and the other replicated with only one version of the facts.
While Gaetz’s fate is uncertain, one thing is certain in this case: the media, once again, is guilty of violating journalistic ethics.