Republican Matt Gaetz's Challenger, a Retired US Navy Commander, Says Rep is Using 'Cold War' Tactics to Stay in Power

A Democratic challenger for the seat of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has accused the congressman of using cold war tactics and "information warfare" in a new campaign ad.

Phil Ehr, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Navy who retired as a Commander in 2008, released the video titled "Cut the Noise" Thursday. Ehr contrasts his long career in the military with the career of Gaetz, portrayed as an obsessed fan of President Donald Trump who uses "information warfare" for political advantage.

"I've spent my whole life training for moments like this," Ehr says in the ad. "If you spend a lifetime learning how to see through the fog of war, there's one thing you learn: one of the main tools of the enemy, it's noise. Chaos meant to hide what's actually going on."

The bulk of Ehr's Naval career was spent as a pilot, flying reconnaissance missions during several conflicts during the cold war. The video likens the behavior of Gaetz to tactics that were used by the government of the Soviet Union.

"In the cold war, we watched Russia use those tactics every day," says Ehr. "But I never thought I'd see the day when American leaders would use information warfare against their own people."

Rep. Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) attends a hearing during the House impeachment of President Donald Trump on December 11, 2019. Drew Angerer/Getty

Ehr also attempted to challenge Gaetz in 2018 but lost in the Democratic primary. He was formerly a Republican, but left the party after the 2016 presidential primary, when Trump defeated his preferred candidate, former Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Gaetz's ardent support for Trump has often been criticized by political opponents, with some deeming his behavior "grandstanding." His campaign website touts media quotes that describe him as "Trump's best buddy" and "Trump's ultimate defender." Ehr's ad attempts to use the association against the congressman, deeming both him and Trump "dishonorable."

"I love the country I spent my life serving and I can no longer stand by and watch dishonorable men like Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz treat the American people like enemy combatants," says Ehr in the video. "It is time for the lies and chaos to stop."

Newsweek reached out to Gaetz for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

The video was made by Win Productions, a company run by Democratic strategist Bill Hyers, who previously served as campaign manager for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's successful 2013 campaign.

Defeating Gaetz in November would be a major upset for any challenger. Florida's 1st Congressional District is heavily Republican and Gaetz won the 2018 election with more than twice as many votes as his Democratic opponent.