- - Monday, April 5, 2021

Things are not looking good for Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who made his name and reputation as one of Donald J. Trump’s most ardent congressional supporters.

Whenever anyone attacked the former president, Mr. Gaetz could be counted on to make a spirited defense no matter who the accuser was. He even turned fire on Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, after she called the vote on the post-Jan. 6 articles of impeachment a matter of conscience not a test of party loyalty.

Mr. Gaetz now finds himself in the middle of a scandal alleging he engaged in inappropriate behavior with women who were at the time of the acts, to use the quaintest of expressions, considered “underage.”

This is not news to some people including, according to published reports, Mr. Gaetz, his politically powerful father, several attorneys and officials inside the U.S. Department of Justice, who seem to have been investigating the allegations since the Trump administration’s closing days.

Mr. Gaetz has vehemently denied everything and claimed he is the victim of an extortion plot. We’d like to believe him but the latest development causes us concern. Last week it was reported that two individuals who have chosen to remain anonymous witnessed the congressman sharing photos and videos on the House floor of women in various stages of undress with whom, the sources said, he bragged he’d had intimate relations.



Whether any of the women depicted in the alleged photos are part of the investigation is beside the point. It is a disturbing betrayal of good judgment. Americans are considered innocent until proven guilty, but that’s a legal standard, not a moral or political one, and the American people have the right to expect better from their elected officials.

The reduction in standards that began when Democratic operatives argued it was “just about sex” following revelations President Clinton enjoyed a sexual relationship with a White House intern have poisoned the ethical waters. Nowadays, virtue lies not in good conduct but in not getting caught.

We admit the allegations against Mr. Gaetz may be untrue. And, as a private citizen, he would have both the time and resources to prove it were it to come to that. For all the good he has done, however, it is perhaps time for him to consider leaving Congress. The stakes are too high in too many areas for him to remain while this cloud hangs over his head. And, might we suggest, as part of the GOP’s bid to win back the support of Republicans lost to Joe Biden for reasons we shall not revisit at this moment, others may want to consider following him out the door. In elections, especially close ones, the political rulebook says, contrast matters.

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