- None in Florida’s congressional delegation admits to communicating with their radioactive colleague.
- Insider asked 30 Republicans if they’d reached out to him. Panhandle Republicans were tight-lipped.
- “He is a slasher, and that does not endear you to people,” one critic told Insider.
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Anyone waiting for a “Save Matt Gaetz!” rally to break out should get used to disappointment.
Fellow Florida Republicans won’t even cop — at least publicly — to talking to the three-term congressman on what’s most likely the worst week of his life (so far).
A March 30 story about a Justice Department investigation into sex trafficking opened the floodgates against the attention-seeking Gaetz, leading to bizarro TV appearances, “let’s wait and see” pleas from GOP leaders, and giddy sniping from haters across the political spectrum.
Read more: Matt Gaetz’s Florida sex game included a ‘Harry Potter’ challenge and ‘extra points’ for sleeping in sorority houses, a female Republican tells Insider
Insider asked 30 GOP officials, including former lawmakers who’ve worked with Gaetz, if they’d touched base with the Panhandle’s brash political scion since the dam burst and whether they’d offered him any advice.
That outreach extended to all the sitting Sunshine State Republicans in the 117th Congress, fellow promoters of former President Donald Trump’s false claims about election fraud, former Trump appointees, local party leaders, Gaetz’s contemporaries during his days in the Tallahassee state house, and political strategists.
“He is a slasher, and that does not endear you to people, even people on your side,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Florida Republican strategist who’s now an independent. He knows Gaetz fairly well; Gaetz is his congressman and they’ve gone fishing together.
Even some of Gaetz’s allies “probably don’t include his good health in their prayers every night,” Stipanovich said.
Read more: A GOP congressman, a sex-trafficking probe, and a $25 million extortion plot: Here’s everything we know about ‘Gaetzgate’
One veteran operative sidestepped the increasingly toxic situation when Insider reached out.
“I no longer work in Florida politics so don’t have anything to add here,” she said.
‘Supporting the crazy caucus’
Gaetz embraces his reputation as a “firebrand” — it’s in his Twitter biography. He’s also known for spending more time scoring cable news appearances than building relationships with his colleagues on Capitol Hill, and it’s shown this week.
Out of 211 congressional Republicans, only scandal-tinged Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, have supported him publicly. Ironically, Greene previously embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory which trades in outlandish ideas, including that Democrats run an underground satanic child sex-trafficking ring.
Former Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia overlapped with Gaetz for two years on Capitol Hill. She told Insider this week that she’d be happy to see him gone.
“Like Trump, he’s a cancer on the party,” Comstock said, adding that she didn’t know anything about Gaetz’s personal life.
Speaking of Trump, Comstock found 45’s uncharacteristic silence telling.
“Okay, you spent your whole four years pretty much sucking up and defending Trump. And where’s Donald Trump? Where’s Trump Jr.? Where are all these people who you spent all your time [with], instead of your constituents?” Comstock said. “They aren’t there for you. I think that speaks volumes.”
Former House Republican Denver Riggleman accused Gaetz of “really supporting the crazy caucus in a way that gets you more clicks.” Riggleman was voted out of his Virginia seat last year in the GOP primary.
“You see people who get drunk on their own bathwater. They drink it and drink it, until they can’t take anymore,” Riggleman said of the party’s current state of affairs.
Robin Bravender contributed to this story.
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