Things were looking up for Rep. Matt Gaetz. The Justice Department recently told the Florida Republican’s lawyers that he wouldn’t face sex trafficking charges; Gaetz faced no repercussions for trying to derail House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s leadership bid; and there was some chatter about the controversial congressman being well positioned to seek statewide office.
It was against this backdrop that Gaetz inadvertently pushed Chinese propaganda during a congressional hearing yesterday. The Washington Post reported:
In 2021, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) decried what he labeled “a fusion of the interest of the Chinese Communist Party and much of the apparatus of the United States government.” At a hearing Tuesday, Gaetz cited, and entered into the record, an article from a newspaper which the Trump administration designated as a propaganda outlet — apparently without knowing that’s what he was doing.
It’s no secret that the far-right Floridian is a staunch opponent of U.S. support for Ukraine. To that end, Gaetz apparently wanted to use a House Armed Services Committee hearing to advance his larger cause.
That didn’t go well.
The GOP congressman focused much of his attention on Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy at the Pentagon, asking whether the U.S. has provided military assistance to a Ukrainian paramilitary unit called Azov Battalion.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Kahl replied.
It was at that point that Gaetz saw what he perceived as an opportunity, and entered into the congressional record a report from an outlet called the Global Times, which claimed that U.S. had, in fact, supplied Azov Battalion with weapons during the Trump administration.
Kahl recognized the name of the publication. “I’m sorry,” the undersecretary said. “Is this the Global Times from China?”
The Republican congressman initially responded, “No, this is ...” before looking again at the article he’d just entered into the record. “Yeah, it might be,” Gaetz added.
“As a general matter, I don’t take Beijing’s propaganda at face value,” Kahl responded.
I suppose it’s possible that Gaetz made a conscious decision to promote a Chinese propaganda outlet — a publication the State Department has designated as a “foreign mission” that is “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by the Chinese government — but it’s hardly the most likely explanation for what happened.
The more realistic explanation is that Gaetz accidentally pushed Chinese propaganda — and entered it into the congressional record — because the Republican failed to do his homework.
In fact, it seems Gaetz might not have even read the full article, which went on to accuse the United States of “conniving with the neo-Nazi forces” in Eastern Europe, and which probably should’ve raised a red flag or two for a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
For his part, the GOP congressman promoted his line of questioning from the hearing by way of social media, but the clip omitted the part where Gaetz seemed surprised to discover that he was quoting a Chinese propaganda outlet.