On Fox News, Gaetz - who, according to an Axios report earlier on Tuesday, had been telling confidants he was considering retiring from Congress and possibly joining the right-wing media outlet Newsmax - appeared to confirm the investigation when he said he was approached by someone who claimed he could "make this investigation go away".
Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation.
Matt Gaetz said David McGee, a former DOJ official, was trying to extort him. "I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward".
"On March 16th, my father got a text message demanding a meeting wherein a person demanded $25 million in exchange for making disgusting sex trafficking allegations against me go away".
Axios said Gaetz sounded "shaken" during a 13-minute-long phone call during which he discussed the allegations. He demanded the Justice Department release the recordings. He noted that he had been told "very little" about the DOJ probe and that he was "absolutely" certain (his word) that "none of the women were underage" (Axios's words).
He told Axios: "I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I've dated". "You were accused of something you did not do, so you know what this feels like."A somewhat befuddled Carlson responded: "You just referred to a mentally ill viewer who accused me of a sex crime 20 years ago". And if it's true, if he, in fact, had sexual relations with an underage minor, I know that Florida law also makes it a felony to do so.
"The New York Times is running a story that I have travelled with a seventeen-year-old woman, and that is verifiably false, people can look at my travel records and see that that is not the case".
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The Times reported that the probe is part of a "broader investigation into. political ally".
The New York Times reported that the inquiry into Gaetz is part of a larger inquiry into Joel Greenberg, a former Florida official indicted last summer on charges that included sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex.
Greenberg is a former local official.
Gaetz repeated the extortion claim in a statement, alleging that a former Justice Department employee, whom he did not identify, had been "seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name". Gaetz denied the allegations, said he's being smeared and extorted, and claimed to Carlson his family went to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Times reported he pleaded not guilty.
"No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation", Gaetz said.
Gaetz said his family has been cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and said his father was wearing a recording device, at the FBI's direction, "to catch these criminals".