During a so-called “America First” rally in Georgia on Thursday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) advocated for violent actions against tech companies that have banned certain right-wing users.
Gaetz railed against so-called “cancel culture” during the rally, asserting that conservative voices are being silenced online. In reality, a number of companies (such as Facebook and Twitter, among others) have removed users from their sites over a number of issues that go against their stated terms of service, including harassment and the threat of violence. (Many have suggested that usage of the term “cancel culture” is really a complaint over having to face consequences for harmful actions.)
“The internet’s hall monitors out in Silicon Valley, they think they can suppress us, discourage us,” Gaetz said during the rally. “Maybe if you’re just a little less patriotic. Maybe if you just conform to their way of thinking a little more, then you’ll be allowed to participate in the digital world.”
The Florida Republican went on to imply violence was a remedy to the issue.
“Well you know what? Silicon Valley can’t cancel this movement, or this rally, or this congressman. We have a Second Amendment in this country, and I think we have an obligation to use it,” Gaetz said.
— KevinlyFather 🇺🇲🇨🇦🇲🇼🇸🇿 (@KevinlyFather) May 27, 2021
Gaetz’s comments came just one day after a gunman in San Jose, California — a city deeply entrenched in Silicon Valley — killed nine individuals in a mass shooting event.
Perhaps responding to stunned reactions to his comments on social media, Gaetz tweeted on Friday that he believed “the Second Amendment is about the ability to maintain, within the citizenry, an armed rebellion against the government if that becomes necessary.”
He added, “I hope it never does.”
But both Gaetz’s comments at the rally and on Twitter go against the Second Amendment’s real intention, according to historians, who say the amendment’s original intent was about preventing the need for a standing army while also securing the country against the threat of invasion. Gaetz’s words on Thursday wrongly implied the amendment should also be used against private companies to contest their policies.
Gaetz, who is an outspoken acolyte for former President Donald Trump, suggested he may run for president himself in 2024 if Trump declines to.
“I support Donald Trump for president. I’ve directly encouraged him to run and he gives me every indication he will,” Gaetz said this past week. “If Trump doesn’t run, I’m sure I could defeat whatever remains of Joe Biden by 2024.”
But Gaetz’s political future is in doubt, as he’s mired in a number of controversies. Most notably, he is the subject of a federal investigation that is looking into alleged sex-trafficking crimes. Gaetz denies the allegations are true, but a former associate of his, Joel Greenberg, recently pleaded guilty to six federal charges, admitting he himself had paid for sex with a teenager below the age of consent, and has suggested in the past that Gaetz paid for sex with underage teens as well. Several financial transactions of Gaetz’s also heavily imply the inappropriate and potentially illegal actions happened, and Greenberg is now said to be cooperating with federal authorities in the inquiry against Gaetz.
Responding to Gaetz’s latest comments on the Second Amendment as well as the current investigation targeting the Florida Republican, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) sent a tweet on Thursday night, addressed to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California), telling him Gaetz’s actions warranted removal from committee assignments.
“Dear @GOPLeader: You need to remove Rep Matt Gaetz from the House Judiciary Committee,” Lieu wrote. “It’s a conflict of interest for Gaetz to have oversight over the [Department of Justice] that is investigating him for sex crimes. Also, Gaetz is urging people to shoot Silicon Valley employees.”
CNN national security analyst Carrie Cordero also took note of Gaetz’s comments advocating violence against Silicon Valley-based companies, and tweeted that they were worth taking seriously.
“One of the biggest mistakes many observers made a few years back was not taking Trump’s words seriously,” Cordero wrote, comparing Gaetz’s words to the former president’s incendiary rhetoric over the years. “They don’t hide the ball, folks. They put it all right out there.”