A sitting member of Congress guest hosted a Newsmax show

By Michael P. Hill Article may include affiliate links

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz guest hosted a show on the far right-leaning network Newsmax Friday, May 30, 2023 — a move that has apparently left even insiders at the network scratching their heads.

Gaetz filled in for former WNYW and NY1 reporter and anchor Greg Kelly, who has since turned into an ultra-conservative host on Newsmax.

“I was surprised seeing a sitting member of Congress hosting a network show,” an unnamed source who works at Newsmax told Mediaite. “Worst idea I’ve heard in a long time.”

It’s not immediately clear if this is the first case of a sitting member of Congress hosting a commercial TV show, but it certainly isn’t a common practice.

It’s also not clear if the gig could cause any conflict of interest or ethics issues for Gaetz, who has already been the target of several investigations in those areas.

In perhaps an even more odd decision by the network, Gaetz led his show by discussing the debt ceiling negotiations that Republican lawmakers, including himself, were having with President Joe Biden at the time.

It did not appear Gaetz offered any confidential or backroom information during his gig, but there’s at least the appearance of a conflict of interest given that he could have potentially used his hosting job as a way to attempt to control negotiations or used his insider knowledge to steer the dialogue in a certain way.

There are former members of Congress who have gone on to have media careers — either hosting shows or as analysts or guests. However, the key distinction appears to be the descriptor “former,” which would remove many potential conflicts of interest.

It’s not clear if Gaetz was paid for guest hosting.

Current House rules dictate that sitting reps cannot “receive compensation for affiliating with employed by a firm, partnership, association, corporation, or other entity that provides professional services involving a fiduciary relationship, except for the practice of medicine,” according to the House Ethics Committee.

There are a few words and phrases in that rule that could be key: “employed,” “affiliating” and “that provides professional services involving a fiduciary relationship.”

As a guest host, Gaetz likely would be considered an employee of Newsmax. However, the word “affiliated” is rather vague and it could likely be argued that by hosting a show on Newsmax, he was “affiliated” with the company. The “provides professional services involving a fiduciary relationship” part means that reps can’t work for a company that offers services for payment, a measure likely meant to prevent them from trying to steer government contracts to companies they work for.

It does not appear that Newsmax would be considered as providing “professional services involving a fiduciary relationship.”

Another workaround would have been that he received no compensation for the appearance. The network could also have offered him gifts or perks in connection to his appearance, which, to be legal, would have to fall within the limits of Congressional gifts rules.

Gaetz has reportedly expressed interest in joining Newsmax, perhaps even resigning from Congress for a job there. He reportedly put out feelers previously, but the network declined. At the time, he was the subject of an open investigation into alleged sex trafficking of a minor. That investigation ended without charges being pursued.