Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz revealed he has been raising an immigrant child from Cuba for more than six years on Thursday.
In a tweet featuring a picture of him and Nestor Galban, whom he calls his son, Gaetz said, "We share no blood but he is my life. He came from Cuba (legally, of course) six years ago and lives with me in Florida. I am so proud of him and raising him has been the best, most rewarding thing I've done in my life," he said.
He added that Galban arrived to America when he was 12 years old and is now 19 and heading to college. The disclosure came in response to a heated exchange he had with Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond, of Louisiana, during a hearing on the Justice in Police Act.
"I was triggered when (to make an absurd debate point) a fellow congressman diminished the contributions of Republicans because we don't raise non-white kids," Gaetz tweeted.
During the hearing, Richmond criticized his Republican colleagues for introducing amendments to distract from the topic of police reform.
"As a black male who went to a fifth best public high school in the country, who was a victim of excessive force, who has a black son, who has worries that you all don't," Richmond said, "please do not come in this committee room and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community."
This prompted Gaetz to ask Richmond if he was suggesting that none of them have non-white children. Richmond retorted, "We're talking about black people in the streets that are getting killed, and if one of them happens to be your kid, I'm concerned about him too. And clearly, I'm more concerned about him than you are. So let's be clear about that."
Gaetz said, "You're claiming you have more concern for my family than I do? Who in the hell do you think you are? This is outrageous."
Pictures of Gaetz and Galban began popping up on Thursday from the congressman's family and former colleagues. Jose Felix Diaz, a former state legislator who served with Gaetz, tweeted that the congressman had dated Galban's sister. "When that kid lost his mom... he stepped up. Plain and simple. He has been an outstanding role model & mentor for Nestor and anyone that served with Matt knows this great kid," Diaz wrote.
In an interview with People, Gaetz said Galban has been living with him for most of the time he's been in the U.S., about four years, before he went to Miami to live with his biological father. Gaetz told People that when Galban turned 18, he moved back in with him. While Gaetz has not formally adopted Galban, he said, "he is my son in every conceivable way, and I can't imagine loving him any more if he was my own flesh and blood."
Galban tweeted that he kept his relation with Gaetz a secret "because I wanted to have a normal life without any of y'all getting in it. But now I'm 19 and I old enough to handle it."
Gaetz's account was also supported by former Congresswoman Katie Hill, a Democrat, who tweeted about Gaetz, "I can't stand a lot of his beliefs but he's been there for me when others haven't. He talks about Nestor more than anything, has done so much for his son & is truly a proud dad." Galban retweet Hill, along with a Tweet by his sister showing a picture of Nestor and the Congressman dressed as Santa.
However, another old Facebook post also showed Gaetz referring to Galban as a "House page," leading some to be skeptical of their relationship.
"Yet again, Matt Gaetz dodges support for the Black community with performative distractions. It's time to #CutTheNoise and acknowledge the real issues," tweeted Gaetz' Democratic challenger Phil Ehr.
Gaetz and Galban appeared on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" Thursday to talk about the revelation and his argument with Richmond. "I'm honestly embarrassed for the United States Congress that we've resorted to criticizing each other based on our race and the race of our children and I wish we would've been more productive going forward," Gaetz said.
"I think it's sort of unfair to not, to tell someone they don't understand because of their racial color. While he's fighting for equality, but if you tell someone to not get involved because of his color, you're kind of being a hypocrite there," Galban added.
Gaetz's office did not respond to comment, and Richmond's office said he has no comment. The House Judiciary Committee passed the Justice in Policing Act along party lines Wednesday night, without any changes, and it now awaits a full House vote.