The allegations are shocking to many. But in Washington, are they surprising?
You might think that Republicans in Washington would be in an uproar over reports that a prominent young lawmaker was being accused of sex with an underage girl. But it’s being reported that he’s long had a reputation among colleagues for aberrant behavior, including a fondness for illicit drugs and younger women — and members of his own party had learned to keep their distance.
Multiple people told CNN that Gaetz had a history of showing off nude photos and videos of women that he said he’d slept with to colleagues on the House floor.
Gaetz himself has admitted to being unpopular in Washington — although, in classic Trumpian fashion, he tried to reframe his unpopularity as a virtue. “As for the Hill, I know I have many enemies and few friends,” he told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “My support generally lies outside of Washington, D.C., and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Most prominent Republicans appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the scandal, and have remained mostly silent as the Justice Department moves ahead with its investigation.
So, what’s next?
Pelosi isn’t the only House leader to have said that Gaetz ought to face consequences, if the allegations are true. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, has said that Gaetz would lose his committee appointments if he were indicted, as is required under House rules. (He sits on the House Armed Services, Budget and Judiciary Committees.)
It’s possible, of course, that Gaetz will follow the example set by Trump, his political mentor, who rode out many scandals of his own involving accusations of sexual misconduct — including rape — by largely ignoring the allegations. On the Democratic side, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has so far kept his own ship afloat even as numerous allegations of sexual impropriety have come out against him, including from his former employees.
Gaetz also may be facing some uncertainty on the home front: In December he became engaged to Ginger Luckey, 26, a Harvard Business School student, in what seemed like a match made in MAGA heaven: The couple met at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort. So far there have been no public reports about the impact of the scandal on their relationship.