Rep. Matt Gaetz plans to spend six figures on television ads attacking CNN’s coverage of him, the embattled Florida Republican’s campaign said Wednesday, as Gaetz goes on the offensive and accuses news outlets of falsely stirring up sex trafficking allegations against him.
Gaetz’ ads will run locally in his Florida Panhandle district and nationally on “select cable networks,” the campaign said in a statement (a spokesperson did not respond when asked when the ads will run or which networks and TV markets will carry them).
The 30-second ad shows a video leaked by right-wing outfit Project Veritas in which an apparent CNN employee suggests the network is deliberately hyping its coverage of Gaetz to “keep hurting him” and help the Democratic Party, and it features a banner imploring viewers to “fight back” by going to his campaign website.
Gaetz has repeatedly complained about the media’s coverage of a federal investigation into him: In a Florida speech last week, Gaetz insinuated that recent allegations he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid women for sex — all of which he’s denied — were smear campaigns orchestrated by media outlets and unspecified political foes.
The congressman has focused his ire on CNN, brushing off CNN reporter Manu Raju this week by claiming the network has tried to “propagandize lies about me.”
A CNN spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Congressman Matt Gaetz is beginning his fight back against a multi-week fake news cycle against him,” the campaign wrote in its statement Wednesday.
Gaetz is battling an array of serious allegations. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether he violated child sex trafficking laws by paying for travel expenses for a 17-year-old, the New York Times revealed two weeks ago. This federal probe is also reportedly looking into claims that Gaetz and Joel Greenberg, a former Florida county official indicted for sex trafficking last year, gave women money and gifts in exchange for sex. Gaetz has not only denied these allegations and vowed to fight back, but he’s also insisted they’re part of an eight-figure extortion campaign launched by a corrupt ex-DOJ official.
Former President Donald Trump and allies like Gaetz frequently grouse about CNN’s coverage. Trump’s campaign and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) have both tried to sue CNN for defamation in recent years, though their suits were tossed out by federal judges, and the Trump administration took away reporter Jim Acosta’s White House press badge until a judge ordered the administration to reinstate it.