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Republican congressman Matt Gaetz is asking for donations to air a minute-long ad to counter what he calls “lies” and “smears” against him as he combats allegations that he is embroiled in a federal investigation involving sex trafficking.
The ad depicts him fighting back “against a multi-week fake news cycle against him,” according to the campaign.
“Our new ad is launching,” the congressman announced on Wednesday. “Pls donate @ Mattgaetz.com to help us run it a bunch!”
Mr Gaetz has adamantly denied accusations surrounding a federal investigation into allegations of his involvement with women who were recruited online for sex and whether he engaged in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
The probe is reportedly part of a broader investigation tied to Florida politician and Gaetz ally Joel Greenberg, who was indicted in 2020 on several charges, including stalking a political opponent, using a state database to create fake IDs, and sex trafficking a minor.
The House Ethics Committee has announced it will investigate public allegations that Mr Gaetz “engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use” as well as reports that the he allegedly shared “inappropriate” images and videos on the floor of the House of Representatives.
The Independent has requested comment from Mr Gaetz’s office.
Mr Gaetz has been using news coverage as part of a fundraising campaign, including emails to supporters asking for donations to “fight back against the fake news”.
In his latest ad, using clips from a speech to a conservative women’s group, he suggests news networks covering the investigation are “not coming for me, they’re coming for you.”
Release of the ad also follows a revealing fundraising report from the first few months of 2021, during which he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on fundraising consulting and a direct mail campaign and gave $5,000 to a company owned by Roger Stone’s family for “strategic political consulting,” according to filings reviewed by The Daily Beast.
Mr Gaetz rolled over $1.6m left over from his previous election cycle into the first first quarter of 2021, during which he raised $1.8m and spent $1.3m, leaving his campaign with roughly $2m, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
In a version posted on social media, the ad pieces together parts of his speech to a Women for America First event with clips from a video from right-wing outfit Project Veritas – which has been accused of deceptively obtaining or editing together its footage – that appears to show a CNN employee suggesting the news network ran negative coverage to hurt Donald Trump’s reelection chances.
“When you see the leaks, the lies, the falsehoods, and the smears, when you see the ‘anonymous sources’ and ‘insiders’ forecasting my demise … they’re not coming for me, they’re coming for you,” Mr Gaetz says in the clip. “I’m just in the way.”
Twitter banned Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe’s account shortly after publishing the video. The company claimed that he violated its platform manipulation and spam policy.
The company said the action followed violations for “operating fake accounts” and attempting to “artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.”
Mr O’Keefe filed a lawsuit against Twitter this week, claiming the company falsely accused him of operating fake accounts. He is seeking unspecified damages and a court order that bars Twitter from making false statements about him.