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Rep. Matt Gaetz’s 2017 ‘Pace HS’ Tweet Resurfaces Amid Scandal

Claim

In August 2017, Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted a photograph in which he is shown with several female high school students.

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True

Reporting

A popular March 31 2021 Imgur post featured a purported screenshot of a 2017 tweet by Rep. Matt Gaetz (including a photograph of Gaetz and teenaged girls), along with a title indicating the content “aged poorly”:

I’d say this tweet aged poorly, but it didn’t start off great, either

On Imgur, the post was at the top of “Most Viral,” but it required a bit of backstory to understand its general presence.

Who is Rep. Matt Gaetz?

Rep. Matt Gaetz is a Republican congressman who has represented Florida’s 1st district since 2017.

Gaetz was previously the center of a bizarre story involving a teenaged Cuban immigrant:

Nestor Galban was 12 and had just arrived from Cuba, where he’d grown up and where his mother had recently died of breast cancer, Gaetz says. Then a state legislator, Gaetz was dating Nestor’s older sister.

And so Nestor moved in with them — “a modern family,” Gaetz says now.

He says that, except for an interruption during Nestor’s junior year after Gaetz and Nestor’s sister broke up, Nestor has basically lived with him since moving from Cuba.

“He is a part of my family story,” Gaetz, 38, tells PEOPLE, adding: “My work with Nestor, our family, no element of my public service could compare to the joy that our family has brought me.”

Geatz did not formally adopt Nestor (and he declines to discuss Nestor’s relationship with his biological family now). He re-frames the matter, saying, “Our relationship as a family is defined by our love for each other, not by any paperwork.”

Nestor, he says, “is my son in every conceivable way, and I can’t imagine loving him any more if he was my own flesh and blood.” Recalling those early days with Nestor — including a scene he paints of the two playing catch not long after the boy arrived to the U.S. — Gaetz warns that he might start to choke up.

Gaetz was not believed to be a father prior to the controversy, so sudden news of a “son” startled many. In June 2020, he tweeted:

His sudden disclosure about his “son” was so unexpected it became a meme; KnowYourMeme explained:

On June 17th, 2020 during a marathon hearing from the House Judiciary Committee on police brutality, [Louisiana] congressman Clarence Richmond spoke in an attempt to focus the debate on police brutality when Republican members were attempting to bring up Antifa. Richmond stated that as a black person, his white male colleagues could not understand the pain in his community caused by police brutality. Republican Matt Gaetz asked if Richmond was implying that none of the Republican colleagues had non-white children. Richmond replied, “”I’m not about to get sidetracked about the color of our children. … It is not about the color of your kids. It is about black males, black people in the streets that are getting killed, and if one of them happens to be your kid, I’m concerned about him, too, and clearly, I’m more concerned about him than you are.” This made Gaetz irate.

The following day, Gaetz explained his explosive reaction by revealing he had an 18-year-old son named Nestor, whom Gaetz claims to have adopted from Cuba when Nestor was 12. His tweet reads, “For all those wondering, this is my son Nestor. We share no blood but he is my life. He came from Cuba (legally, of course) six years ago and lives with me in Florida. I am so proud of him and raising him has been the best, most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life.”

The tweet surprised many, as Gaetz had never mentioned having a son during his political career … Furthermore, Gaetz’ tweet spawned a copypasta wherein people would post Gaetz’ text and add a humorous photo.

A prescient March 23 2021 item by The Root, (“We’ve Got to Talk About Matt Gaetz and His Son, Nestor, (Again)”) revisited the 2020 controversy over Gaetz’s “son”:

We only have a few rules here, at The Root:

  1. We do not throw shade, dirt or curses on the Gods: Auntie Maxine, Beyoncè, and Michelle Obama.
  2. We don’t back down from controversial topics unless it involves the messiness that is relationship guru/serial cheater Derrick Jaxn.
  3. We don’t touch on families. Ever.

Thankfully, and prayerfully, that doesn’t include Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and his live-in “son” Nestor, who has a pension, a five-o’clock shadow, an AARP card, and is a part of a 30-and-over bowling league.

See, Matt Gaetz claims that Nestor is his adopted son. There are no adoption papers to support this claim, and Nestor has a whole-ass father who is alive and well and hasn’t given his son up for adoption. Yet, no one has truly questioned the nature of this adoptive relationship that doesn’t include an actual adoption.

What Else Was Going on With Matt Gaetz in March 2021?

On March 31 2021, Orlando-area NBC affiliate WESH reported:

Federal authorities are investigating Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz as part of a broader probe into trafficking allegations against former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, according to CNN.

Greenberg was arrested [in 2020] and charged him with child sex trafficking and a federal indictment claimed he used his position to access information about people he was in “sugar daddy” relationships with.

[…]

Gaetz, a prominent conservative and a close ally of former President Donald Trump, says he is being investigated by the Justice Department but denies any criminal wrongdoing.

Gaetz, who represents parts of western Florida, is accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paying her to travel with him, and he is under investigation to determine if he violated federal sex trafficking laws.

No charges have been filed against Gaetz.

Also on March 31 2021, CBS News reported that Gaetz had denied the allegations:

Congressman Matt Gaetz on Tuesday night [March 30 2021] denied he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him after The New York Times reported that the Justice Department was investigating the matter. Gaetz, a close ally of former President Trump, appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” where he claimed he was the victim of an attempted extortion.

The New York Times, citing three unnamed sources, reported that investigators are looking into whether Gaetz “violated federal sex trafficking laws.” The investigation reportedly began under the Trump administration.

Gaetz denied the relationship to Carlson and in a separate statement. “The person doesn’t exist. I have not had a relationship with a 17-year-old,” Gaetz told Carlson. “That is totally false.”

Gaetz pinned a March 30 2021 tweet in which he described the scandal as “organized criminal extortion”:

The 2017 Tweet

As Gaetz stood accused of improper conduct with a 17-year-old girl, the Imgur post purportedly demonstrated a tweet shared by Gaetz in 2017 — showing the congressman with several high school girls.

That tweet was real and unaltered, and remained live as of March 31 2021:

The most visible replies to the tweet were from March 30 2021, and involved sentiments similar to the one in the Imgur post:

Summary

In late March 2021, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) was identified by the New York Times as being under investigation for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old girl; Gaetz denied the claims. In the ensuing discourse, his 2017 tweet about “Pace HS” recirculated (sometimes in screenshot form). That tweet was real, tweeted by Gaetz on August 16 2017.