‘Not a monk’: Rep. Matt Gaetz defends himself against sex charges as ex-staffer offers support

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Matt Gaetz, R- Fla., speaks at CPAC at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 26, 2021.. - Stephen M. Dowell/TNS

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., defended himself Monday against allegations involving sex with underage girls and trafficking as a former congressional aide stepped forward to vouch for his embattled ex-boss.

The staunchly pro-Trump lawmaker used very specific phrases to deny having sex with a 17-year-old and paying for sex.

But the 38-year-old also acknowledged having an active “lifestyle,” before getting engaged last year.

“I am a representative in Congress, not a monk, and certainly not a criminal,” Gaetz wrote in an op-ed piece for the right-wing Washington Examiner news outlet. “My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal.”

Gaetz lashed out at Democrats and liberal media for smearing him as part of what he called an attack on all conservatives.

“They aren’t coming for me — they are coming for you. I’m just in the way,” Gaetz said.

The beleaguered lawmaker devoted just 12 words in the op-ed piece to a supposed $25 million extortion plot he had previously floated as his primary defense to the sex charges.

Gaetz did catch a break when his former military liaison stepped up to defend him.

Retired Air Force Capt. Nathan Nelson, a wounded Afghan war veteran who now works as a tech executive, said he had never seen or heard Gaetz do anything illegal.

“He’s always been very, very professional in his public life,” Nelson said of Gaetz.

Nelson refuted rumors that he quit his post as Gaetz’s military affairs liaison last November over the growing sex scandal.

Nelson said FBI agent quizzed him for two hours last Wednesday about the allegations.

Gaetz tweeted that the FBI’s questioning of Nelson somehow discredits the probe, without elaborating.

“The FBI is literally running down false media rumors,” Gaetz tweeted.

Nelson dodged questions about why an announcement of the event was issued on the official taxpayer-funded letterhead of Gaetz’s congressional office.

“I remain loosely affiliated with Congressman Gaetz’s office as an unpaid adviser,” Nelson said.

Nelson was paralyzed from the chest down in a 2013 rocket attack on his base in Afghanistan, where he was serving his third tour of duty as an Air Force intelligence officer.

Nelson now works as executive director of Northwest Florida Supercomputer Research Group. He also says he’s a motivational speaker with Nelson Ministries.

Gaetz was rocked Friday when his longtime communications director abruptly resigned.

Gaetz has admitted he is the subject of a federal investigation sex trafficking charges and other charges.

The three-term lawmaker was caught up in the probe of his friend and political ally Joel Greenberg, a former Orlando, Florida-area official who is awaiting trial on 30 counts involving various alleged misdeeds, including sex with underage girls.