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Matt Gaetz’s Latest Congressional Meltdown Was Truly Weird

Matt Gaetz points indignantly in Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to discuss the Democrats’ Justice in Policing bill. The committee’s Republican contingent, however, chose to try to hijack the hearing by talking about James Comey, Michael Flynn, and their secret adult sons. It was a weird day.

The Justice in Policing Act proposes a number of actionable reforms like banning things that should never have been legal in the first place (choke-holds, no-knock warrants, etc), as well as bigger picture ideas like reinvesting in community-based policing programs and “[changing] the culture of law enforcement.” But the Republicans present repeatedly tried to steer the conversation toward unrelated subjects, from antifa to abortion to impeachment.

Eventually, Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, who is Black, made it clear he’d had enough.

“I am absolutely sitting here offended and angry as hell,” Richmond said. “And I want to explain, what we always say is how we refer to each other, my good friends on the other side. By the time I’m finished, you will be clear that we are not good friends.”

“As a Black male who went to the fifth-best public high school in the country, who was a victim of excessive force, who has a Black son, who has worries that you all don’t,” he continued. “To my colleagues, especially the ones that keep introducing amendments that are a tangent and a distraction from what we’re talking about, you all are white males, you never lived in my shoes, and you do not know what it’s like to be an African-American male. And all I’m saying is, if you are opposed to this legislation, let’s just have the vote. But please do not come in this committee room and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community.”

Richmond condemned the Republicans in the room for their digressions, comparing their behavior to similar tactics used in the 1960s when debating Civil Rights legislation. “Either man up and say you don’t believe in it or let’s talk about the real issue,” he said.

Instead, Matt Gaetz interrupted Richmond to talk about his own real issue, and that was the reverse racism (not a thing) he appears to have perceived in Richmond’s true statement that he, along with the other Republicans on the committee, are white, and the presumption then that none of them have non-white children (even though Richmond was specifically talking about Black men and boys).

The exchange is truly bizarre. Gaetz has a full meltdown on the floor of Congress at the implication that he doesn’t have a Black child, which he doesn’t.

Here’s the exchange between the two:

GAETZ: I appreciate your passion. Are you suggesting that you’re certain that none of us have nonwhite children? Because you reflected on your Black son, and you said none of us could understand—

RICHMOND: Matt. Matt. Stop. I’m not about to get sidetracked about the color of our children. We’re talking about Black kids —

[crosstalk]

RICHMOND: I reclaim my time. I reclaimed my time. I already know that there are people on the other side that have Black grandchildren. It is not about the color of your kids. It is about Black males, Black people in the streets that are getting killed. And if one of them happens to be your kid, I’m concerned about him too. And clearly I’m more concerned about him than you are. So let’s be clear about that.

GAETZ: You’re claiming you have more concern for my family than I do? Who in the HELL do you think you are?

RICHMOND: If the shoe fits.

GAETZ: You don’t know how much we care about our families. It is outrageous. You should take those words down. I know you care about your family and love your family. So do we, damnit!

RICHMOND: Was that a nerve?

GAETZ: Yeah! You’re damn right it was a nerve.

As it turns out, Matt Gaetz does have a nonwhite son. Sort of. On Thursday, he posted a picture of himself and a teenage boy on Twitter, writing, “For all those wondering, this is my son Nestor. We share no blood but he is my life. He came from Cuba (legally, of course) six years ago and lives with me in Florida. I am so proud of him and raising him has been the best, most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life.”

This was surprising to most people because until today, no one outside of Gaetz’s immediate circles seems to have heard of Nestor. A Google search of their names brings up exactly zero results before Wednesday. Some internet sleuths found a few appearances of Nestor on Gaetz’s social media, where the congressman referred to him as his “helper” and “local student.”

There were a lot of jokes (and speculation) on Twitter after Gaetz’s revelation as well as some of his colleagues coming out to defend him. Obviously, we don’t know what the deal is Nestor and why Gaetz had never mentioned him publicly until today and it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Gaetz—who pointedly refused to answer a direct question of whether he thinks Black lives matter during Wednesday’s hearing—chose to use his son as a deflection against Rep. Richmond’s very valid criticisms and a way to shut down discussions of police violence.

Richmond was trying to explain to a room full of white men how they can never understand his experience as a Black man and Gaetz’s reaction to fly into a rage because he raised a Latino teenager and Richmond didn’t explicitly acknowledge that in his remarks.

Yup, that sounds like Gaetz.

(image: Erin Scott-Pool via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.