Rep. Matt Gaetz unleashed an absolutely brutal takedown of pro-abortion activists Saturday at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Tampa, Florida, which was newsworthy unto itself.
But when left-leaning journalists called him on it, the Florida Republican’s devastatingly unapologetic response showed just how passionate he is about his pro-life stance — and how comfortable he has become launching vicious ad hominem attacks against his opponents.
But it was truly Gaetz’s utterly savage two-word rejoinder to critics of his harsh remarks that made headlines: “Be offended.”
During his speech Saturday, the congressman suggested the women who are protesting in favor of abortion are less likely to become pregnant in the first place because they are unattractive. And he was not subtle about it.
“Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb,” he said.
Gaetz: "Why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions? Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb." pic.twitter.com/0qqvun3Pf8
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 23, 2022
It went downhill rapidly from there as Gaetz continued riffing.
“These people are odious on the inside and out,” he told the audience. “They’re like 5-2, 350 pounds, and they’re like, ‘Give me my abortions or I’ll get up and march and protest.’ And I’m thinking, ‘March? You look like you got ankles weaker than the legal reasoning behind Roe vs Wade.’
“A few of them need to get up and march. They need to get up and march for like an hour a day, swing those arms, get the blood pumping, maybe mix in a salad.”
Reporter Olivia Iverson of WEAR-TV in Pensacola spoke to Gaetz on Monday and asked about his remarks.
“I’m very pro-life and I make no apology for it,” the congressman said. “And I’m grateful that Roe has been overturned and that Dobbs is now the jurisprudence on abortion. And I find these people who go out in these pro-abortion, pro-murder rallies odious — and just, like, ugly on the inside and out. And I make no apology for it.
“I don’t believe that every person who disagrees with my perspective on life is an ugly person. But the ones that are out there protesting and marching outside Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh’s home, trying to threaten the court, trying to impose a ‘night of rage’ on our nation’s capital — which is what they advertised — that’s just, that’s just pure ugliness.
“I see that ugliness on the inside, I see it on the outside. You know, even in the horrible circumstance where an abortion may happen, it is nothing to celebrate and it is nothing to cheer.”
Pressed further by Iverson, Gaetz doubled down.
“Is it safe to say that, based off of your comments, you’re suggesting that these women at these abortion rallies are ugly and overweight?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“What do you say to people who think those comments are offensive?” Iverson said.
“Be offended,” the congressman responded.
@RepMattGaetz doubled-down on his comments in our interview this morning.
Q: You're suggesting that these women at these abortion rallies are ugly and overweight?
— Olivia Iverson (@OliviaIversonTV) July 25, 2022
OK, I'm not going to say every Republican is like Matt Gaetz — though there will be more like him in the next Congress.
But look at how the audience reacts to this brain-dead misogyny, at a conference meant to showcase the youthful future of the GOP. https://t.co/yBnpNa5RJd
— Tom Malinowski (@Malinowski) July 24, 2022
While many conservatives might enjoy the schadenfreude, or at the very least who view the turnabout against those on the left as being fair play (considering their eminent ease with attacking conservative people rather than ideas), this type of approach could present a rhetorical weakness.
There are two often-misattributed political maxims that may apply here: first, “Don’t wrestle with pigs. You both get filthy and the pig likes it,” and second, “Never give your opponent a stick to beat you with.”
Gaetz’s passion for defending the lives of the unborn is laudable and even praiseworthy. But it’s important to remember that pro-life conservatives are not out to strip anyone’s rights away, but rather to enshrine the most fundamental right: the right to live. That’s the moral high ground, and it’s worth keeping.
In the 2022 reality presented by the overturning of Roe v. Wade and its exacerbation of already heightened tensions throughout the nation, it is to be expected that many on the right would welcome their representative’s willingness to engage in the harshest forms of rhetoric.
But it is far more important to criticize abortion than pro-abortion activists and their physical appearance.