Two women come to Matt Gaetz's defense, say sex and drug-fueled parties did not involve minors

CNN spoke with two women who say they attended sex and drug-fueled parties with the Republican congressman

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published April 14, 2021 11:15AM (EDT)

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) (Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) (Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

Two unnamed women have come forward to provide details about a string of drug- and alcohol-fueled house parties partaken by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in Orlando. 

According to a CNN report, which interviewed two female guests who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the male partygoers consisted of a "who's who of local Republican officials." Women were reportedly asked to put away their cellphones upon arriving for fear of the night's activities being recorded. The two women interviewed also alleged that alcohol and various drugs, like cocaine and ecstasy, were distributed to attendees. 

Gaetz, who was known to behave like a "frat type of party boy," was often seen taking recreational drugs in the form of pills, the women said. Many of the parties took place just after high-power political functions, but some were subtler affairs. "No one ever wants to stop partying, stop drinking, once you've had a few glasses of champagne in you," one of the women told CNN.

Digital transactions often occurred between guests. At least one woman who attended these parties was the recipient of hundreds of dollars in digital payments. One of the women interviewed by CNN said that she received payments for sex, but declined to reveal who the money was paid by. She also said that Gaetz's associate, Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County currently facing 33 counts including child sex trafficking, directed payments to her. But she never received money from Gaetz directly. 

One of the women told CNN that she came forward because the Justice Department's investigation of Gaetz over child sex trafficking does not square with what she observed of the congressman at various functions. Neither of the women interviewed could recall seeing anyone that looked underage. 

According to a New York Times report from Tuesday, Greenberg, who is reportedly cooperating with investigators and is likely to strike a plea deal, confirmed to authorities that he and Gaetz had multiple sexual encounters in exchange for cash or gifts. Greenberg is said to have been on "websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances" through which he met women he introduced to Gaetz. 

Last week, the Daily Beast reported that Gaetz may have transferred $900 in Venmo payments to three young women via Greenberg. One of the women was eighteen years old at the time the payments were made. 

Investigators are also scrutinizing a trip Gaetz took to the Bahamas with various friends and young women, which CNN reported last week. The probe is looking into whether Gaetz was provided with travel, escorts, and campaign donations by several Florida associates in exchange for political favors. 

Congressman Gaetz has vehemently denied any allegations that he paid for sex or had a sexual relationship with an underaged woman. Gaetz has furthermore alleged that the accusations brought against him are part of an elaborate extortion scheme carried out by an ex-DOJ official seeking $25 million from his family. 

In a Washington Examiner op-ed last week, Gaetz delivered an emotional appeal to make his case. "My personal life is and always has been conducted on my own time and my own dime. Consensual adult relationships are not illegal," he wrote. "Although I'm sure some partisan crooks in Merrick Garland's Justice Department want to pervert the truth and the law to go after me, I will not be intimidated or extorted. The battle for America's future demands gladiators, and I am going to keep getting back up and fighting, every single day."

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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