Disgraced congressman Matt Gaetz kicked off his “America First” speaking tour by calling himself a “marked man” on Friday.
“I’m a marked man in Congress,” Mr Gaetz told a crowd at the Brownwood Hotel & Spa in The Villages, a large retirement community in Florida. “I’m a cancelled man in some corners of the internet. I may be a wanted man by the Deep State, but I’m a Florida man and it’s good to be home!”
Mr Gaetz, a staunch Trump ally, is currently facing a Justice Department investigation into whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. The probe is also looking into whether he paid for her to travel with him, which, if true, could potentially have violated sex trafficking laws.
At the Villages event, Mr Gaetz was introduced by one of his few remaining allies in Congress, Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Villages event represented the first stop on their “America First” speaking tour, named after a favorite phrase of former president Donald Trump’s. Ms Greene promised there would be more.
“We’re starting these America First rallies and we’re gonna take them across the country,” the congresswoman told a cheering crowd of retirees.
Mr Gaetz later added that Mr Trump himself might join them for “a few stops” of the tour, or that they might join him – possibly foreshadowing a stop at the ex-president’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
The pairing of Mr Gaetz and Ms Greene was in some ways a natural match. Both represent the farthest-right fringe of the GOP, and made it clear at the rally that many Republicans in Congress don’t approve of them – nor do they approve of those Republicans.
“They don’t like me very much,” Ms Greene said in her speech, explaining that she had made an unpopular push for “recorded votes” in Congress. “I got chewed out for making people vote, and it was Republicans who didn’t like it.”
In February, Congress voted to remove Ms Greene from her committee positions as punishment for her controversial social media posts – a vote that was joined by 11 Republicans. Meanwhile, Mr Gaetz has received notably little support from his Republican colleagues as his scandals have made headlines.
As Mr Gaetz riled up the Brownwood Hotel & Spa, he appeared to enjoy a much warmer reception than he typically gets in Congress.
“Thanks for having my back!” he shouted. “Thanks for fighting with us! Let’s go get ‘em!”