The day after an intense exchange with Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA) about race and family, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) revealed that he has been raising an adopted son from Cuba for about the last six years — a fact he suggests may illuminate why he became so angry during the hearing.
“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,” said Gaetz. “I am so proud of him and raising him has been the best, most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life.”
“As you can imagine, I was triggered when (to make an absurd debate point) a fellow congressman diminished the contributions of Republicans because we don’t raise non-white kids,” he said. “Well, I have.”
Nestor turned 19 a few days ago & will be off to University. He arrived here at 12.
As you can imagine, I was triggered when (to make an absurd debate point) a fellow congressman diminished the contributions of Republicans because we don’t raise non-white kids.
Well, I have.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 18, 2020
In an interview with People Magazine, Gaetz revealed that he began raising Nestor shortly after he arrived from Cuba around age 12, with the exception of a period of time when Nestor lived with his biological father during his junior year of high school.
At the time Nestor came to the United States, Gaetz was dating Nestor’s older sister and the boy’s mother had just died of breast cancer. People Magazine notes that Gaetz declined to elaborate on Nestor’s relationship with his biological relatives.
“My work with Nestor, our family, no element of my public service could compare to the joy that our family has brought me,” said Gaetz.
The congressman, who was a state legislator at the time he says he informally took in Nestor, says he kept Nestor from the public eye for privacy reasons: “I felt like coming to the country, dealing with the death of a mother, learning English and enduring the normal trials and tribulations of high school and middle school were enough on the young man’s plate.”
But Gaetz now says Nestor, who is 19 and getting ready for college, is ready to identify himself with the congressman. After Gaetz made the announcement, Nestor replied from his own Twitter account: “I love you, keep up the good work, we all support you and love you.”
According to The Washington Post, Richmond declined to respond to the news about Gaetz’s family announcement but suggested that the congressman may not have prepared his son for how to interact with the police as a person of color.
“From his display yesterday, I don’t think that son is going to get an adequate talk that goes with being a person of color in America because I think that the congressman doesn’t get it,” said Richmond. “We all know that the talk that you have to have, especially with young black males and males of color, about their interactions with police — I’m not sure he has the life experience to give that.”
In the interview with People Magazine, Gaetz suggested otherwise, explaining that he’s “had ‘the talk’ with Nestor about how to interact with law enforcement,” and that it’s “probably a different talk than I would have had if I had a white son.”
During the committee hearing, Richmond suggested that other members of Congress didn’t have the same worries as him, on account that he is black, has been a victim of excessive force in the past, and also has a black son. Later in the hearing, Gaetz pushed back: “Are you suggesting that you’re certain that none of us have non-white children?”
“Matt, Matt, stop! I’m not about to get sidetracked about the color of our children,” responded Richmond, which prompted some back and forth related to procedure. “I already know that there are people on the other side that have black grandchildren. 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.”
Gaetz issued a forceful reply: “You’re claiming you have more concern for my family than I do? Who in the hell do you think you are?”
“If the shoe fits,” replied Richmond.
“You don’t know how much we care about our families! This is outrageous! You should take those words down,” responded Gaetz. “I know you care about your family and love your family, so do we, damnit!”
In a brief appearance on Tucker Carlson on Thursday evening, Nestor said of the viral exchange between Gaetz and Richmond: “I think it’s kind of unfair to tell someone that they don’t understand because of their racial color.”
Nestor is the light of my life. I couldn’t imagine loving him any more if he was my own flesh and blood. I’m proud of him.
I’ve raised Nestor to believe we treat everyone equally. It doesn’t matter what their background or race is.
We treat every American with respect. pic.twitter.com/4C7xmdNJ6R
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) June 19, 2020
After Gaetz made his Twitter announcement about his family, some Twitter users floated conspiracy theories about Nestor, prompting former Congresswoman Katie Hill (D-CA), who resigned last year, to issue a forceful defense of him.
“Many of you know [Matt Gaetz] [and] I have an unlikely friendship. I can’t stand a lot of his beliefs but he’s been there for me when others haven’t. He talks about Nestor more than anything, has done so much for his son [and] is truly a proud dad. This #freenestor thing is bullshit. Stop,” said the former congresswoman.
“Also he was never ‘hiding’ his son. He was trying to protect him from the crap that comes from being a politician’s kid, [especially] after what Nestor had been through, [especially] in this political climate. Now that Nestor is grown he’s made his own choice to enter the spotlight. Good for them,” said Hill.
Also he was never “hiding” his son. He was trying to protect him from the crap that comes from being a politician’s kid, esp after what Nestor had been through, esp in this political climate. Now that Nestor is grown he’s made his own choice to enter the spotlight. Good for them.
— Katie Hill (@KatieHill4CA) June 18, 2020
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