House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday he has met privately with Rep. Matt Gaetz and that the Florida Republican denied any impropriety stemming from a federal sex trafficking investigation that’s entangled him.
“I’ve spoken to Mr. Gaetz about the accusations. He’s told me he’s innocent of the accusations,” McCarthy told reporters at a news conference in the Capitol, adding that he reiterated to the conservative firebrand that an indictment would cause internal consequences: “I explained to Mr. Gaetz the rules inside our conference. If there was something to come forward, we would take action.”
McCarthy has previously committed to removing Gaetz from his committee assignments if the allegations against the scandal-plagued congressman — centrally, that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for sex — prove to be true.
Asked again Thursday whether Gaetz would maintain his seat on the House Judiciary Committee given its oversight of the Justice Department, McCarthy said Gaetz “is the same as any American. He’s innocent until proven guilty. There’s no charges against him yet. If a charge comes forward, that will be dealt with at that time.”
McCarthy also denied being made aware of any red flags about Gaetz, following media reports that then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) met with Gaetz in 2017 to discuss the then-freshman congressman’s behavior. At the time, McCarthy was House majority leader.
“When I was majority leader, I wasn’t part of that discussion, and I didn’t know about that,” McCarthy said, adding: “If you’re wondering if I knew anything about what’s being alleged now, no.”
Despite a flurry of negative headlines in recent days further detailing the allegations against Gaetz, only one House Republican has called for his resignation, and his position in Congress appears safe for now.
McCarthy’s comments came after Gaetz announced a six-figure ad buy Wednesday targeting CNN — part of the congressman’s efforts to paint himself as the victim of anti-conservative media bias.