On Monday evening, right after Republican Matt Gaetz introduced a motion to remove his party colleague Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the US House of Representatives, he addressed the crowd of reporters gathered around him on the steps of Congress: “McCarthy likes to pretend he’s working with the conservative coalition, but all he’s doing is disrupting… With his promises to them.” In the previous days, he appeared on almost all major American news channels to express his dissatisfaction with the president.
He is Gates in every sense of the word: always on the attack and obsessed with the spotlight. Descriptions of him in the American media range from “political arsonist” to “conflict entrepreneur.” “Built for battle,” the “outspoken conservative agitator” on X calls him. Just as the guide describes his political teacher, former President Donald Trump.
At 34, Gaetz burst onto the national political stage in 2016 in the wake of Trump, when he was elected to the House of Representatives on behalf of a deeply conservative district in Florida. There, Gaetz, the son of a prominent local politician, quickly developed into a self-proclaimed “tireless supporter” of the president. He dismisses the investigation into Russian interference in the US presidential election and possible involvement in the Trump campaign as a witch-hunt. Party members who condemn the storming of Congress are giving them wind.
But Gaetz is not just stirring controversy because of his outspoken sympathy for Trump. In his annual State of the Union address, he invited a Holocaust denier to attend the president’s address to Congress. Regarding abortion activists, he wondered “why are they so concerned about losing abortion rights when they have less chance of getting pregnant.”
However, the biggest scandal of Gaetz’s career revolves around the investigation into the possible sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl. Prosecutors decided not to bring charges against him early this year, but the House Ethics Committee is still investigating.
Controversial or not, he is popular among more conservative Republicans. In January, McCarthy came into the spotlight during the election for Speaker of the House: thanks in part to him, McCarthy’s election took fifteen rounds. The fact that this makes him hated by the political establishment is something he, like his boss, considers a populist virtue: “My support generally comes from outside Washington, D.C. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, was also removed from office on Tuesday.
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