Rep. Gaetz Asks for Retraction, but Will He Get It?


by Sharon Rondeau

(Mar. 2, 2019) — On Friday morning, The Post & Email observed that two writers claimed in their respective Twitter feeds that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL1) had been speaking with President Trump while he was in Hanoi, Vietnam for a summit with Kim Jong-Un about a tweet Gaetz issued accusing former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen of marital infidelity the day before Cohen was to testify to the House Oversight & Reform Committee.

Gaetz issued the tweet on Tuesday evening; Cohen testified on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.  After facing significant backlash about his tweet, Gaetz deleted it and apologized to Cohen, stating that family members of public figures should not become the focus of political targeting.

On Thursday, an article published at The Washington Examiner, a right-leaning mainstream media outlet, relied solely on a tweet from one of the writers mentioned above, Edward-Isaac Dovere of The Atlantic, a left-leaning publication.  As with the writer Dovere cited in his tweet, Alex Ward of Vox, Dovere asserted Gaetz was on the phone with Trump at the time in question without citing a source.

Late Thursday night, Gaetz tweeted that The Examiner‘s article was “false” and that “This call never occurred.”  As of Friday night at 11:14 p.m. EST, the article, which bears the title, “Matt Gaetz overheard telling Trump about threatening Michael Cohen tweet: ‘I was happy to do it for you'” remains online.  However, an editor’s note was added after Gaetz appeared on Fox News’s “The Story” with Martha McCallum on Friday evening stating, “Editor’s note: Rep. Matt Gaetz said during a Fox News interview on Friday night his phone call on Wednesday was with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, not President Trump, and that his comment “happy to do it for you comment” had nothing to do with Michael Cohen.

In a Friday night tweet, Gaetz wrote that he and DeSantis “told @TheAtlantic that we were on the phone with each other discussing appointments” at the time Dovere and Ward claimed Gaetz was speaking to Trump.  He also said he would be appearing on “The Story” with MacCallum that evening.

During his interview with MacCallum, Gaetz apologized for mentioning Cohen’s wife and father-in-law in the controversial tweet.  He then called upon Dovere to “retract” his claim about the Wednesday night phone call, mentioning The Washington Examiner article within the framework of “an echo chamber” he said the media is generating after a false story surfaces.

He said that at 8:38 p.m. on Wednesday, he received a call from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis resulting in a 13-minute conversation during which DeSantis thanked him for a recommendation of an individual for a position in a state agency.  Gaetz confirmed that the words he was quoted as having said were, in fact, uttered, but to DeSantis and not Trump.

MacCallum asked Gaetz if he has “proof” that he was speaking with DeSantis, to which Gaetz answered emphatically, “Yes.”

The video clip is here:

When MacCallum asked if Trump ever “encouraged” Gaetz to “mix it up a little bit on the Michael Cohen issue or to show up at the Oversight hearing which you also tried to do,” Gaetz responded, “Absolutely not.  I spoke to the president before he left for Hanoi; we talked about completely unrelated matters, and I never spoke to the president when he was in Vietnam or the way back.”  He then decried the media for its “false reporting,” having “no source” when putting out a story line in some instances, and said he is awaiting a retraction from Dovere and others.

Gaetz told MacCallum that he contacted Cohen personally and that he is “very grateful” that Cohen accepted his apology.

MacCallum then asked Gaetz, a licensed Florida attorney, about the Florida Bar Association, which reportedly is investigating whether or not Gaetz violated “the rules” of that body with the tweet.  “I think it’s a real problem for state bar associations to be second-guessing the legislative conduct of members of Congress,” Gaetz responded after stating that he has not received any communications from the FBA to that point.

The House Ethics Committee is weighing the matter, MacCallum also said.  “They’ve got a bad record of sort-of going after a lot of the president’s defenders,” Gaetz responded, providing several alleged examples.


Update, 11:32 AM EST:  On Friday night, Gaetz tweeted a message to the “Florida press corps” in general about his claim of a conversation with DeSantis and not Trump:

Marc Caputo is a reporter for PoliticoMike Van Sickler is “Government & Politics editor” for The Tampa Bay Times.  Brendan S. Farrington is an AP reporter based in Tallahassee, while Ana Ceballos is “state government and politics reporter for News Service of Florida,” all according to their respective Twitter feeds.

Responding to Gaetz, Caputo tweeted on Saturday morning:

During the same time frame, Dovere tweeted, apparently responding to Gaetz, “Here’s the account offered of what happened, a day and a half after first being asked and not denying what was posed then:” which is followed by commenters not involved in the issue when the link is opened.

In response, Gaetz tweeted:


Correction, March 4, 2019, 9:46 AM EST: This article initially reported erroneously that the phone call alleged to have occurred between Gaetz and Trump occurred on Tuesday evening, February 26, 2019, when in fact, the call took place on Wednesday, February 27.





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