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Matt Gaetz’s Pledge of Allegiance stunt took an unfortunate turn

In hindsight, Matt Gaetz probably shouldn't have invited a murder suspect to lead the House Judiciary Committee in the Pledge of Allegiance.


Rep. Matt Gaetz caused a bit of a stir this week when he accidentally promoted Chinese propaganda during a committee hearing, but as it turns out, it was not his only problem on Capitol Hill. Rolling Stone reported:

Rep. Eric Swalwell called him out for inviting Corey Beekman, a combat veteran, to lead the Pledge of Allegiance ahead of the year’s first Judiciary Committee hearing. “It is my pleasure and distinct honor to introduce to the committee Staff Sergeant Corey Ryan Beekman, an American hero and a constituent of mine residing in Pensacola, Florida,” Gaetz said. As Swalwell pointed out on Tuesday, Beekman is an accused murderer who wound up in a standoff with police.

Some context is probably in order.

As MSNBC’s Alex Wagner explained last night, GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee started the new Congress with an odd fight over how many times members should participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. The idea, evidently, was to challenge Democrats’ patriotism, which seemed ironic given the larger circumstances.

The Democratic members of the panel didn’t fall for it, and they said they’d be happy to say the Pledge at the start of hearings. They did, however, suggest a minor tweak: Insurrectionists shouldn’t be invited to lead the committee in the recitation of the Pledge.

Republicans were not impressed, insisting that no member would invite criminals to participate in the patriotic exercise. Rep. Tom McClintock of California was especially incredulous, insisting during the debate that “nobody who committed murder” would be welcomed to recite the Pledge with the House Judiciary Committee.

We now know that was probably the wrong thing to say. As Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell explained this week, Gaetz invited a murder suspect to lead the panel in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“That’s why there’s a trust deficit here,” Swalwell told his GOP colleagues. “You pull off a public stunt to try to ‘own the libs,’ and what you did is you brought in a guy who allegedly shot two people and killed one of them. That’s where the trust deficit is.”

It’s worth noting for context that Gaetz ultimately apologized to the slain man’s family members, one of whom recently said seeing the suspect on Capitol Hill as an honored guest “was like getting a dagger stuck in our heart again.”