Rep. Matt Gaetz is a Republican representing Florida’s first congressional district and has made a name for himself as a staunch defender of President Donald Trump.
One of the images that comes up in a Google search of the congressman’s name is a mugshot. Gaetz was arrested in 2008, nearly a decade before he was elected to the U.S. Congress.
Here’s what you need to know.
Matt Gaetz Was Arrested in 2008 On Suspicion of DUI Before He Was Elected to the Florida House
Rep. Gaetz has prior experience making headlines for less-than-positive reasons. He has always been very open about his own brush with the law before he became a state congressman. (He was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2010 and to the U.S. Congress in 2016).
Gaetz was arrested on suspicion of DUI on October 30, 2008, when he was 26 years old. He was driving home from a nightclub and was pulled over for driving 48 in a 35 mile-per-hour zone, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The SUV belonged to his father, State Senator Don Gaetz.
The deputy, identified as Chris Anglin of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department, wrote in the arrest report that Gaetz had been unsteady on his feet and that his eyes were bloodshot. Gaetz reportedly admitted to having had two beers and refused to perform a field sobriety test or take a breath test.
Rep. Gaetz’s Arrest Was Alluded to During an Impeachment Hearing; Rep. Johnson Called Him Out For ‘Calling the Kettle Black’
Rep. Gaetz has been in the headlines over the course of the impeachment hearings against President Trump. For example, in October, he and more than two dozen other Republican lawmakers “stormed” a closed-door hearing to demand entry. Gaetz was also removed from Fiona Hill’s closed-door testimony because he was not a member of the committee that was questioning her.
On December 12, 2019, an incident from Rep. Gaetz’s past was referenced during the Judiciary Committee’s hearing. It came up after Gaetz discussed Hunter Biden’s documented struggles with substance abuse. Rep. Gaetz proposed an amendment to an impeachment article; he wanted to remove former Vice President Joe Biden’s name from a section and replace it with Hunter Biden’s name.
During his proposal, Rep. Gaetz alleged that Hunter Biden had not been qualified to sit on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company. Burisma is the company that President Trump is accused of pressuring Ukraine to investigate in exchange for military aid, along with an investigation into the Bidens.
Rep. Gaetz remarked, “I don’t want to make light of anybody’s substance abuse issues. But it’s a little hard to believe that Burisma hired Hunter Biden to resolve their international disputes when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz rental car leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car.”
After Gaetz brought up Hunter Biden’s drug issues, Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson alluded to Rep. Gaetz’s own past struggles. In 2008, nearly a decade before he became a congressman, Gaetz was arrested on suspicion of DUI. Rep.Johnson said, “I would say that the pot calling the kettle black is not something that we should do. I don’t know what members, if any, have had any problems with substance abuse, been busted in DUI, I don’t know. But if I did, I wouldn’t raise it against anyone on this committee. I don’t think it’s proper.” You can watch what both congressmen above.
Gaetz Was Never Convicted & He Has Promoted Efforts to Have Mugshots Removed From Private Websites
The case against Gaetz was officially dropped in December of 2008. His attorney argued that there had been no evidence Gaetz had been impaired while behind the wheel. Deputy Anglin ended up quitting his job shortly after arresting Gaetz, after he was accused of grabbing a suspect’s neck during another arrest in early November.
Gaetz was never convicted for DUI. But his mugshot was published online. After becoming a Florida congressman, Gaetz supported efforts to have mugshots of unconvicted people removed from private websites. Nothing was passed while he was in state office. But in 2018, a Florida law went into effect that requires websites to take down mugshots if requested without charging a fee.
Despite the lack of a conviction, Gaetz’s opponents used the DUI arrest against him in the 2018 midterm election. An anti-Republican political action committee paid for a billboard in Pensacola that included Gaetz’s mugshot and the words, “Rep. Matt Gaetz, how many DUIs have you had? The voters deserve to know.”
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