Ex-Gaetz Staffer Calls Sex Trafficking Claims 'Baseless, Fabricated' Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By Eric Mack | Monday, 05 April 2021 02:17 PM
A former staffer for Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., called the allegations of sex with a 17-year-old girl and potential ties to sex trafficking levied against the conservative lawmaker "baseless" and "fabricated."
Nathan Nelson, a U.S. Air Force veteran and former Director of Military Affairs, said he spoke with FBI investigators last Wednesday amid an investigation into allegations Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and might have been paying women for sex.
"They told me that members of the media reached out to them asserting that I had previous knowledge of Congressman Gaetz's illegal activities," Nelson told reporters in Santa Rosa Beach, California, on Monday. "They asserted that because of that knowledge, I resigned from my position as Director of Military Affairs [in October 2020]. I'm here this morning to state that nothing could be further from the truth."
Nelson added he left Gaetz's staff to pursue other military opportunities, according to ABC-3 WEAR-TV.
"This baseless claim against me leaves me further convinced that the allegations against Congressman Gaetz are likewise fabricated," Nelson added. "They're merely an attempt to discredit a very vocal conservative."
"I am not here to provide any support or evidence in support of Congressman Gaetz – only to discredit these baseless allegations."
Gaetz has himself come out to discredit the claims, saying he has not had sexual relations with a 17-year-old and calling the payments to of-age women he was dating intended to cover their travel with him.
The claims were made amid a corresponding investigation into potential criminal extortion of his family, Gaetz told Fox News last week.
"It's clear that there are people making baseless allegations, and I wanted to make sure my words were direct from my mouth," Nelson said, noting he had told Gaetz's office of the FBI visit last week.
Nelson added he remains "loosely affiliated" with Gaetz's office as "a military adviser in an unpaid capacity," according to the report.
The investigation into Gaetz reportedly stems from a past relationship with former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, who was indicted in 2020 for sex trafficking and other charges.
Amid the reports, Chris Latvala, a former GOP colleague in the Florida legislature, revived a 2020 tweet in which he accused Gaetz of creating a "game where members of the FL House got 'points' for sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists, and married legislators."
Latvala wrote Friday: "I am just sorry that this guy may have victimized others, including possibly minors before others came forward to verify it."
Gaetz had previously made headlines the day before a House hearing on the Russia investigation in 2019, tweeting at former President Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who had turned on Trump and was about to testify, asking, "Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends?"
The House Ethics Committee formally admonished Gaetz for the tweet, which some saw as an attempt at intimidation, and he apologized.
In Gaetz's book released last fall, "Firebrand: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the MAGA Revolution," in the first chapter called "Sex and Money," he wrote that when he arrived in Congress, he asked current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for a seat on the Armed Services Committee. Gaetz wrote that "to my shock," McCarthy suggested he contribute $75,000 to the House GOP's campaign committee — a donation Gaetz wrote he actually doubled.
McCarthy has called the sex charges against Gaetz "serious," but Gaetz contended to Fox News' Tucker Carlson the allegations are an attempt to "smear" a MAGA-supporting Republican.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.