The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Anatomy of a Smear

Posted on | March 31, 2021 | Comments Off on Anatomy of a Smear

When this story first broke Tuesday, I didn’t know what to make of it, and even after Rep. Matt Gaetz went on Tucker Carlson to defend himself, I still wasn’t sure what the truth was. After another 24 hours, however, the picture is becoming clearer: A scammer named Bob Kent, who has raised money supposedly to help free an American citizen named Robert Levinson from prison in Iran, evidently realized Gaetz’s father is rich, and decided to make him the target of an extortion scheme.

Allegedly, I hasten to add, because this complex story involves a lot of accusations and counter-accusations that I can’t fully evaluate. But if the story laid out by Emily Brooks and Joseph Simonson in the Washington Examiner is accurate, apparently Kent came up with the idea of telling Gaetz’s father that the congressman was under investigation by the FBI for sex trafficking. In return for funding Kent’s project of rescuing Levinson from Iran, the elder Gaetz was told, his son would be guaranteed a pardon by Joe Biden. Crazy.

The “sex trafficking” part of the thing involved an allegation that Gaetz had paid for a 17-year-old girlfriend’s interstate travel, but he says he hasn’t had any 17-year-old girlfriends. Assuming that this denial is truthful, then Gaetz is the victim of a crime, not a perpetrator.

However, we must wait and see what shakes out because (a) Gaetz is a bachelor, (b) he’s been known to date younger women, and (c) one could imagine how this might lead to trouble, even if it doesn’t actually amount to “sex trafficking.” Still, at this point, it looks like Gaetz is the target of a politically motivated smear, which the New York Times was willing to assist. There has even been a guilt-by-association element to the smear, with outlets reporting on Gaetz’s acquaintance with Joel Greenberg, a local Florida politician who actually did get charged with sex trafficking last year. And so what? There is zero evidence that Gaetz (or anyone else) knew what Greenberg was doing with his “sugar daddy” accounts.

I hesitate to go all-out defending someone in Gaetz’s situation because it may turn out he is guilty of something, but from what I’ve seen so far, this looks like an elaborate smear job. We shall see.



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