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CBS4's Jim DeFede discusses the controversy behind Matt Gaetz.
ELIOTT RODRIGUEZ: Now at 6:00, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, who's under federal investigation for sex trafficking, is the keynote Speaker at Women for America First tonight at Trump National Doral. Late this afternoon we learned a House panel has opened an ethics probe on the sex trafficking allegations.
- So joining us now to talk more about the controversy swirling around Gaetz is CBS 4'S Jim DeFede. Jim, some politicians, if they were facing these kind of allegations, would probably avoid some public events. So why do you think Gaetz is here in South Florida tonight?
JIM DEFEDE: Well, because this is Matt Gaetz' style. Let's be very clear at the outset that Matt Gaetz denies that he's done anything illegal or wrong, that he believes that he will ultimately be exonerated. But even still, as you noted, attorneys would generally tell this person who's under investigation to keep a lower profile. Instead, Matt Gaetz went on Fox News and had a disastrous interview with Tucker Carlson a week or so ago.
And now he's going to very friendly events at the Trump Doral. This is right out of the Donald Trump playbook. If you think about it, Donald Trump never apologizes, always just continues to push on no matter what people throw at him, and Matt Gaetz, who came up under the tutelage of Donald Trump and was one of his biggest allies, is taking that playbook to a new level by continuing to be out there and asserting himself and believing that those who side with him will remain on his side no matter what comes to light.
ELIOTT RODRIGUEZ: Jim, CBS News reported on a trip that Gaetz allegedly took to the Bahamas with an Orlando hand surgeon. I know you've been looking at that as well. What more can you tell us about that trip? How serious is this?
JIM DEFEDE: Well, this is part of the federal investigation. This trip would have taken place in late 2018, 2019. The hand surgeon is Jason Pirozzolo. He is a prominent Republican donor, very close with Matt Gaetz and a number of other Republicans up in Tallahassee. And I can tell you from my own reporting, that the relationship between Matt Gaetz and Jason Pirozzolo is indeed very close.
In fact, two sources, two very knowledgeable sources during the DeSantis transition, says that Matt Gaetz pushed, pushed strong to have Governor DeSantis name Pirozzolo to be the state's surgeon general. That did not happen, in part, because Pirozzolo did not have, well, had some trouble with the early vetting process. Instead, the governor ended up appointing him to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
But it just goes to show you the close relationship that Gaetz and Pirozzolo have. And so that is an aspect of this investigation that the allegation that CBS News, "The New York Times" and now others have also reported, is that Pirozzolo and Gaetz went to the Bahamas with a planeful of escorts to celebrate whatever they were celebrating, and that it was Pirozzolo who paid for the prostitutes.
ELIOTT RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I know they're looking at the money transfer in all of this. Jim, thank you very much for joining us with your perspective. Our coverage of Congressman Gaetz' visit to South Florida continues on CBS 4 news at 7:00. Jim will be back with us, and CBS 4's Jessica Vallejo will report from the Trump National Doral.