Reprinted with permission from Media Matters
Since cashing a check from the reelection campaign of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in March, notorious political dirty trickster Roger Stone has furiously defended the congressman amid a firestorm surrounding a federal investigation into his activities. On his social media accounts and in an interview with Infowars' Alex Jones, Stone attacked the story as a conspiracy between the media and the "deep state" intended to derail a future Gaetz run for president.
The Daily Beast reported that federal campaign finance disclosures reveal Gaetz's campaign paid Stone's Drake Ventures $5,000 for "strategic political consulting" fees on March 24. It was the first time the campaign had ever made a payment to the firm. Six days later, the New York Times reported that Gaetz has been under federal investigation for alleged sex trafficking.
Hours after that story broke, Gaetz went on the program of Fox News' Tucker Carlson, an apparent personal friend of Stone's, to defend himself. The Florida congressman denied the report and alleged that he had been the victim of an attempted extortion. The interview went poorly, and Fox seemed to abandon Gaetz, who had built his political brand through appearances on the network, amid disastrous reports about his behavior which eventually triggered a House Ethics Committee probe.
But as Fox left Gaetz for dead, Stone came to his aid.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones interviewed Stone, a frequent guest on his Infowars show, about the Gaetz allegations on March 31, the day after the Times story broke and Gaetz went on Carlson's show.
Stone used the opportunity to offer a stalwart defense of the congressman as the victim of a conspiracy while praising him as the future of the Republican Party -- without acknowledging what we now know, that Gaetz's campaign had paid him thousands of dollars (Salon previously reported on the interview).
"If you had to name the single most effective member of the House in terms of fighting for the America First agenda, it would have to be Matt Gaetz," Stone claimed.
He described the allegations against Gaetz as "a search and destroy mission" and "a cheap political trick" intended to "derail his career." And Stone and Jones agreed that career could go quite far, with both praising him as a formidable presidential candidate in 2024 if former President Donald Trump does not seek another term.
"The left-wing nonjournalist fake news media are the most vicious, malicious, dishonest people that I've ever come across," he later added. "I think this is a good old fashioned smear because, let's face it, Matt Gaetz shows enormous promise and they know that. They don't want to face him at the polls in four years, or eight years, or 12 years, they want to finish his political career right now."
"Not because he's done something wrong," Stone continued, "because I don't believe he has, but because they control the media. They now control the Justice Department. That's a toxic combination."
Jones also pointed to a personal relationship between the Florida consultant and the congressman. Before the interview began, he said Stone is "good friends" with Gaetz, "helped him run for Congress," and was responsible for Gaetz's 2018 interview with Jones. (Gaetz subsequently said he would not return to that program because "the things that Alex Jones has said and done are so hurtful to so many people that a member of Congress should not grace that platform and legitimize it.")
Stone also rallied to Gaetz in a series of posts to his Gab account.
Stone mocked an image connecting him to Gaetz and others involved in the scandal as "a delusional left-wing conspiracy theory from nuts and haters"; wrote that he was praying for the congressman on Easter; posted a video denouncing CNN for reporting that Trump denied Gaetz a meeting that the congressman had requested; and denied a report that he was backing away from Gaetz.
"The only thing @repmattgaetz is guilty of is occasional bad taste in his wardrobe," Stone posted on Gab on April 14. "The drumbeat of 'leaks' against Gaetz from the DOJ are false allegations without evidence or proof."
On Telegram, he shared a link where followers could buy a "Matt Gaetz did nothing wrong" T-shirt.
Stone is a longtime Trump political adviser who at one point was banned from all three major cable news networks over racist and misogynistic commentary and conspiracy theories. Trump and his 2016 campaign tasked Stone to "obtain advance information about WikiLeaks's planned releases'' of Democratic Party emails stolen by Russian intelligence in 2016, and they believed he had succeeded in doing so, according to a Republican-led Senate committee's investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller's probe ultimately led to his conviction on seven federal felony counts, but Trump commuted his 40-month sentence and ultimately pardoned him. Stone is also connected to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Like Gaetz, Stone is currently in hot water with the Justice Department. On Friday, federal prosecutors sued him and his wife over an alleged $2 million in unpaid taxes and penalties. Stone claims there's a conspiracy behind that one, too.
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