Inside Matt Gaetz's office, where surprises — from doing the boss' TV makeup to cleaning up after messy controversies — are part of the jobApril 2, 2021
- Matt Gaetz blindsides his staff with remarks on Twitter and TV, a former aide told Insider.
- Staffers are assigned to do his hair and makeup ahead of TV hits, a task some don’t want.
- Gaetz can get “irate” with staff if too few people show up for an event he’s holding.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Matt Gaetz prides himself on his attention-seeking antics. The Republican congressman from Florida regularly lashes out against his critics on Twitter, drops rhetorical bombs on cable news, and picks fights with his foes on the US House floor.
Then the phones start ringing back in his congressional office, where staffers are often blindsided by angry constituents and media requests after the latest Gaetz controversy.
And the drama is taking a toll on some of his staffers.
Read more: Matt Gaetz’s Florida sex game included a ‘Harry Potter’ challenge and ‘extra points’ for sleeping in sorority houses, a female Republican tells Insider
His communications director, Luke Ball, quit abruptly “out of principle,” NBC reported Friday.
Insider reached out this week to 36 current and former Gaetz staffers about the culture in Gaetz’s office. While the majority of them did not respond or declined to comment, two spoke on the record and two others spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve personal and professional relationships. They and others have described a sometimes uncomfortable environment.
Gaetz and his current and former aides have been bombarded this week as his latest — and biggest — controversy became public. Gaetz is the subject of a Justice Department investigation into whether he broke sex trafficking laws with a 17-year-old girl in 2019. Gaetz denies the allegations.
‘Hell for all of us’
Gaetz staffers have gotten used to being blindsided by their boss’ attention-seeking controversies and the media fallout that comes with them.
There was the stunt where he wore a gas mask on the House floor during a coronavirus relief vote. And the time he threatened former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
One of Gaetz’s first acts of Congress — just a month into his tenure in 2017 — the freshman lawmaker unveiled a bill to abolish the US Environmental Protection Agency. The move instantly propelled Gaetz into national headlines, some of the office staff at the time had no idea it was coming.
“That was hell for all of us,” a former staffer said. But Gaetz “loved every second of it because it was very chaotic and it helped draw a lot of media attention to him.”
Staffers in Gaetz’s office are sometimes assigned to the congressman’s hair and makeup, given his regular television appearances. That became an issue of concern for some of them who didn’t want to do it, the former staffer told Insider.
Gaetz had become an expert in putting on his own television makeup by 2020, he told the Washington Post — a skill he learned from his friend and fellow Fox News regular Ron DeSantis, who’s now Florida’s governor.
Aides were also taken aback when Gaetz invited Chuck Johnson, a Holocaust denier, to be his guest at a State of the Union address.
Similarly, Gaetz upset one aide in particular who worked on anti-trafficking issues when he was the sole House lawmaker to vote against an anti-human trafficking bill in 2017, said the other former staffer who spoke to Insider this week. “She was not too happy.”
That aide, Sara Lefevers, left Gaetz’s office in 2019. She is now president and CEO of the NISSI Project, an anti-human trafficking organization.
“Thank you for contacting me. I will not be able to make any statement relating to Congressman Gaetz, the allegations against him, or my time serving the 1st Congressional District of Florida,” Lefevers told Insider this week.
She then added: “I left my position to pursue my life calling and passion in advocacy to fight human trafficking in all of its forms. As we await more information regarding this investigation and the allegations made against Representative Gaetz, we will be pursuing our mission to fight human trafficking and support any investigation that seeks to protect innocent women, men and children from this heinous crime.”
Gaetz’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Many remain loyal
Many of Gaetz’s staffers remain loyal to him, and some former aides told Insider they enjoyed their stints in his office.
“I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience working for him and the others in that office,” one former intern said. “I hope this issue gets resolved for him in a fair manner,” she added of the current DOJ investigation.
But at least one former staffer was concerned about having Gaetz listed on their resume, given the controversies surrounding the congressman.
Another former staffer appears to have locked down his LinkedIn account after receiving an inquiry from Insider.
Read more: We asked 30 Republicans who know and have worked with Rep. Matt Gaetz if they’ve reached out to him as his sordid sex stories snowball. Their collective silence was deafening.
And Gaetz was known for sometimes snapping at his staff, the former aide said, in a way that sometimes seemed out of bounds.
If Gaetz wanted a big public event and only a few people showed up, for example, “he would be irate. … He was always about the optics of everything.”
Gaetz often held events in high schools in his district, the former staffer recalled.
That often involved hugging students and snapping selfies with them. At least once he was advised by his staff after an event, “You don’t want to come across as too friendly with some of the students,” the staffer said.
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