Last Thursday, out of inspired good humor, Elon Musk tweeted, “If there’s ever a scandal about me, *please* call it Elongate.” In an excess of sinister prescience, Matt Gaetz retweeted, “Deal. I want Gaetzgate.” Done!

Now that we know what to call it, the Gaetzgate Scandal may have put Matt Gaetz in career-ending jeopardy. While his denial may be true, that he never had any relations with a 17 year old girl, that it is a phony scandal ginned up by a blackmailer who tried to extort twenty-five million dollars out of Gaetz and his father, it nevertheless sounds suspiciously like a lie Gaetz once told. When confronted about making light of wearing masks during the pandemic by wearing a gas mask on the House floor, Gaetz turned the accusation around with obvious disingenuousness. “I wasn’t making light of anything,” he said, “I think I was wearing a mask before it was chic, before it was cool.”

No, Gaetz was making fun of wearing masks during the pandemic. Nobody was fooled by his misdirection. He realized the gas mask-wearing stunt was a mistake. So he changed the story to one that he thought was quasi-sympathetic to him. He was dead wrong.

When cornered, Gaetz has a habit of doing this, of doubling down and changing the focus or counter-attacking. That is a stupid impulse. Particularly in this instance. Any decent lawyer would tell him to keep his mouth hermetically sealed. Gaetz clearly doesn’t know any decent lawyers. He’s a Republican after all. And he certainly isn’t one.

Instead, Gaetz went on Fox News and made the three little frown lines between Tucker Carlson’s eyebrows deeper and even more concerned than usual. During the interview Gaetz alluded to a woman he claimed he brought to dinner with Carlson and his wife two years ago. He said the woman had been threatened by the FBI to invent sleazy stories about Gaetz. Carlson didn’t know what Gaetz was talking about. Carlson had no idea who this alleged woman was. Carlson later called it, “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”

What we do know is that the Department of Justice is investigating Matt Gaetz over an alleged sexual relationship with an underaged girl. The investigation also allegedly includes paying for the girl to travel across state lines, which means Gaetz may also be guilty of sex trafficking.

As often happens, the investigation into Gaetz began with an investigation into someone else. Joel Greenberg, a former Florida county official, was charged last summer with a number of federal offenses, including sex trafficking of a minor. Greenberg has ties to Matt Gaetz.

Gaetz claims the scandal was a hatchet job intended to extort money from him. He says the mastermind of the extortion is one David McGee, a former employee of the Department of Justice. McGee denies the claim. “It is completely false. It’s a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that he’s under investigation for sex trafficking of minors,” McGee told the Washington Post. McGee further said he had no connection to the case other than his being “one of a thousand people who have heard the rumors.”

If the allegations against him are true, Gaetz has painted himself into a corner that he probably can’t explain his way out of, and certainly won’t survive. He’ll surely never realize his ultimate ambition, which is running for President of the United States in the not-too-distant future. But that’s the least of his worries. If Gaetz is lying it’s a near certainty that not only will he lose his Congressional seat, he will also probably go to prison. All I can say about that is the “Gaetzgate scandal” couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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