Congressman Matt Gaetz – who has spent the last week doing damage control as allegations that he is being investigated by the FBI for trafficking a 17-year-old girl for sex have emerged in national headlines – appears to be using the still unfolding scandal to raise money.
Mr Gaetz sent an email on Tuesday asking for donations to help him "fight back against the fake news."
The email opens up by alleging the "far-left New York Times" had published "salacious allegations" against Mr Gaetz, who claims he is "fighting for the forgotten men and women of this country."
He then claims the media is only attacking him to cover up stories about Hunter Biden and sexual harassment allegations about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Mr Biden is not an elected official and Mr Cuomo's scandal has been covered exhaustively by media outlets.
Mr Gaetz then claims "the swamp is out to drown me but I'm not giving up."
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The congressman has denied allegations that he ever slept with a 17-year-old girl, and says the allegations are the result of a $25m extortion campaign by former Department of justice prosecutor David McGee.
Mr McGee has denied having any involvement with any extortion campaign against Mr Gaetz and said the congressman was lashing out to distract from the allegations against him.
The New York Times reported that Mr Gaetz's investigation grew out of an investigation into one of his close allies, former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg for alleged child sex trafficking.
The Washington Post reported that Mr Gaetz frequently showed fellow Republican lawmakers pictures of topless or nude women he had on his phone, and apparently bragged about the access Mr Greenberg gave him to women.
The individuals who spoke to the paper anonymously said the photos always appeared to show adult women.
Mr Gaetz first discussed the allegations during an appearance on Tucker Carlson's show on Fox News. He claimed Carlson had attended a dinner with himself and a woman, and said Carlson knew what it was like to be "falsely" accused of sexual misconduct.
Carlson said he did not recall the dinner and later said it was "one of the weirdest" interviews he had ever conducted.
Since news of the scandal broke, accusations of Mr Gaetz's questionable behaviour have emerged.
In one instance, Mr Gaetz and other young lawmakers in Florida were accused of playing a game where men were awarded points for sleeping with women, with higher scores for sleeping with married women or certain lawmakers.
It has also called into question certain votes Mr Gaetz has cast on legislation. In 2017, Mr Gaetz was the lone "no" vote on an anti-human trafficking bill, and he also opposed a revenge porn bill in 2016 while serving in the Florida legislature.
Thus far, the only Congressional Republican to stand up for Mr Gaetz has been Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has supported the QAnon conspiracy theory in the past – a narrative that alleges powerful government figures actively engage in child sex trafficking – but says she believes the congressman's denials.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said if Mr Gaetz was found to have committed any of what has been alleged, he will be removed from his Congressional committees, and said he would "deal with it" if it is proven the congressman is guilty.
Despite being an ardent supporter of Donald Trump, neither Mr Trump nor his allies have stepped up to defend the congressman.
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