Chris Cuomo Challenges Matt Gaetz to Live CNN Interview

CNN host Chris Cuomo has challenged Matt Gaetz to defend himself from allegations of sex trafficking in an on-air interview.

The Republican congressman faces calls to step down after it emerged that federal authorities are investigating him over accusations of a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

Last week, The New York Times reported that the Department of Justice has been investigating Gaetz's relationship with the girl and whether he paid for her to travel with him across state lines, which could be a violation of federal sex trafficking laws.

On Tuesday, the newspaper revealed that Gaetz had allegedly asked Donald Trump for a blanket pre-emptive pardon before the former president left office. Trump did not grant this request.

cuomo gaetz challenge
Chris Cuomo challenges Rep. Matt Gaetz to defend himself live on CNN. CNN

The Republican congressman has denied the trafficking accusations, as well as the report that he asked for a presidential pardon. He has claimed he is the victim of an extortion plot and told Newsweek in a previous statement: "No part of the allegations against me are true."

Reacting to the latest development, Cuomo challenged Gaetz to defend himself live on CNN.

Cuomo told his show on Tuesday: "If Congressman Matt Gaetz has nothing to answer for, if the federal investigation of alleged activities, maybe involving prostitution, even underage females, if it's all a sham, why would he ask Trump for a pardon?

"That's what The New York Times is reporting tonight, that Gaetz privately asked Trump and the White House, in the ugly final days of that presidency, for blanket, pre-emptive pardons for himself as well as for unidentified congressional allies."

Cuomo said CNN had not confirmed the pardon story but added: "You have to ask, do innocent people seek out pre-emptive pardons?"

"Sources tell the Times top White House lawyers and officials viewed the request as a nonstarter because they didn't want to set a precedent of giving pardons pre-emptively," he added.

Cuomo also referred to allegations that Gaetz is trying to leverage the scandal to help him fundraise. The Independent reported that he sent an email on Tuesday asking for donations to "fight back against the fake news."

The email reportedly said the "far-left New York Times" had published "salacious allegations" against him and he was "fighting for the forgotten men and women of this country."

Cuomo said: "The congressman has no shame in his game. He is fundraising off these allegations."

Gaetz spoke to Carlson Tucker live on Fox News within hours of the initial reports about the sex trafficking allegations. During the interview, Gaetz claimed the FBI had been investigating a former justice department official for trying to extort him out of millions of dollars in exchange for making the allegations go away.

Despite his attempts to counter the allegations, Gaetz is facing mounting calls to resign from figures across the political spectrum, including Meghan McCain, a conservative commentator and daughter of former GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

Her comments followed reports that he had shown fellow Republican lawmakers photos of naked or topless women on his phone.