Former Gaetz aide: Sure looks like the media's cooking a narrative on Gaetz

Is there real fire behind all of the smoke, or has Matt Gaetz fallen victim to a media smear campaign? As the tales have gotten more outlandish — not to mention recycled — the impulse is to lean toward the former. Perhaps, however, this eye-popping Twitter thread from Washington Post reporter Matt Zapotosky should have us demanding greater scrutiny to these claims, until extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims finally emerges.

Zapotosky spoke with Gaetz’ former director of military affairs, who got questioned by the FBI about Gaetz. According to Captain Nathan Nelson, the agents informed him that “national media” sources had told them Nelson had quit over Gaetz’ alleged “illegal activities.” Not only was that untrue, Nelson had never even suggested any illegal activity on Gaetz’ part:

Nelson has no issue with the FBI for following up on tips, but he clearly resents the rumors involving his supposed knowledge and the circumstances of his departure. He told Zapotosky that he would hold a press conference to “pre-empt” those rumors from getting into the media narratives, and to also call into question much of the reporting on Gaetz thus far:

Nelson’s brief presser can be seen in this video, which apparently was filmed from someone’s 2003 version of a Palm Pilot. Nelson told the media that any suggestion that he left on bad terms or had ever expressed any concerns about Gaetz’ activities was entirely false. “I’m saying the allegations that named me were baseless,” Nelson told reporters, “that kind of reflects on the allegations against Congressman Gaetz.”

Literally the first question Nelson gets asked is for evidence to prove the negative, of course:

Is this a definitive debunking of all the allegations against Gaetz? No, and that’s not quite what Nelson claims either. What he does point out is that the media is conducting a feeding frenzy with very little if any solid evidence behind it — and they got it spectacularly wrong in his case. How much else have they gotten wrong?

Even worse, however, is that the FBI apparently got sent in his direction from a “national media” source. If that’s true, that suggests that at least some of this frenzy is media generated, not media covered. It’s also possible that the agents might have told Nelson that as a misdirection to protect a source. That doesn’t make any sense at all if Nelson never said anything of the sort to anyone, though, as he told the press today.

As an elected official, Gaetz’ conduct is fair game for media scrutiny. Before we stampede the man out of office, however, let’s make sure we’re seeing media scrutiny rather than a rumor-fueled witch hunt. Skepticism should be the default, especially as the claims get wilder while the evidence keeps failing to materialize.