Did Matt Gaetz Have an Affair With Male Staffer? What We Know

Matt Gaetz's office has branded an allegation that he is having an affair with a member of his staff as "totally false and libelous."

The allegation—presented without evidence by Rebekah Jones, the Democrat candidate House Republican Gaetz defeated in November 2022 to secure re-election—has gone viral on social media, receiving more than 6.5 million views on Twitter alone.

On Tuesday Jones tweeted: "Matt Gaetz is believed to be having an affair with his press secretary, Joel Valdez, according to three independent sources.

"Gaetz' office and his wife have not responded to requests for comment. This is not Gaetz' first affair, nor is it his first w/a [with a] man."

The tweet was widely shared, receiving more than 8,000 retweets to reach millions of social media users.

Asked by another Twitter user to provide "more concrete info," Jones claimed she had "observed" their "intimacy in a moment they thought was private after our debate."

She later said she "had two camera crews filming me" at the time, but didn't provide any video evidence.

Jones declined to name her "independent sources" when contacted by Newsweek, saying: "They work in his [Gaetz's] office and fear for their jobs."

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Gaetz's office fervently denied the allegations, commenting: "Thrice fired, indicted, politically defeated, mentally unstable people shouldn't be considered sources by serious media. Mrs. Jones' statements referenced no sourcing or evidence in her defamatory posts.

"We hope Mrs. Jones reforms her life after paying restitution and completing the court-ordered community service following the last set of crimes she took responsibility for.

"Any insinuation that Congressman Matt Gaetz has been starting relationships with staff is totally false and libelous."

Matt Gaetz in Congress
Matt Gaetz speaks after House Republicans met to choose their party leaders at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. on November 15, 2022. His office has described unverified allegations about his personal life as "totally false and libelous." MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY

Gaetz defeated Jones in November to secure re-election as House Representative for Florida's 1st Congressional district, getting 68 percent of the vote.

Earlier in January, Gaetz was one of the Republican rebels who tried to stop Kevin McCarthy being appointed House Speaker, arguing he was insufficiently conservative.

McCarthy was eventually elected after 15 ballots, in the longest contest for the role since 1859, after making a number of concessions to his critics.

A video of McCarthy confronting Gaetz on the floor of the House went viral online, receiving more than 1.6 million views.

Who Is Rebekah Jones?

Jones first came to prominence in 2020, while employed as an analyst by the Florida Department of Health, when she clashed with superiors and the administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over the presentation of coronavirus data.

Jones was removed from the coronavirus data team, then fired for insubordination. She filed a complaint for wrongful termination, but this was rejected by the Florida Office of Inspector General in May 2022, who described her allegations against other officials as either "unsubstantiated," or "unfounded."

Police raided Jones' home in December 2020, confiscating electoral equipment, after coming to believe she had hacked into the Florida Department of Health computer system. In January 2021 she was arrested on suspicion of having "illegally accessed the system" and sent out internal messages.

On December 8, 2022 Jones accepted a deferred prosecution agreement, under the terms of which she admitted guilt for the charges, agreed to pay $20,000 in investigation fees, perform community service and see a mental health professional at least once a month.

Who Is Joel Valdez?

Valdez, who studied at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has been Gaetz's communications director since April 2021, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He started in Gaetz's congressional office as an intern in January 2020 before joining his team as a press assistant the following March.

In February and March 2020 Valdez served as a "War Room Analyst" during Donald Trump's presidential election campaign based "at campaign headquarters."

When approached for comment Valdez referred Newsweek to a representative for Gaetz's congressional office.

Correction 01/27/23 3:25 a.m. ET: This story has been corrected to note Valdez studied at the the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign but did not graduate from the University of Illinois as originally stated.