WASHINGTON, D.C. — Things appear to have cooled down now, but during the weekend, U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., engaged in a Twitter war with actor Ron Perlman.
The war of words played out on Gaetz’s personal Twitter account, @mattgaetz. In addition to that account, Gaetz maintains a Twitter account associated with his congressional office, @RepMattGaetz.
The profanity-laced (almost entirely on Perlman’s part) exchange began with a Saturday tweet from Perlman taking on Gaetz’s announcement that he is drafting legislation to compel the U.S. soccer team to require players to stand during the national anthem.
Matt, ya really wanna keep going? I been schoolin ya all day, I’ll school ya all night! LMK. https://t.co/C3aVDbqOpn— Ron Perlman (@perlmutations) June 14, 2020
By his own admission in his most recent weekly podcast, “Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz,” Gaetz was “triggered” by a decision last week by U.S. Soccer to repeal a regulation that had required team members to stand for the national anthem.
The three-year-old policy was originally put in place after U.S. women’s soccer team star Megan Rapinoe knelt during the anthem in solidarity with former professional National Football League player Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick began kneeling for the national anthem in protest of a string of deaths of Blacks at the hands of police around the country.
U.S. Soccer’s reversal of its policy came in the wake of the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, who died last month when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck well past the point that Floyd was conscious.
I’d rather the US not have a soccer team than have a soccer team that won’t stand for the National Anthem. https://t.co/wcLC0fIpUn— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) June 12, 2020
And on Friday in Atlanta, another Black man, Rayshard Brooks, was shot while fleeing from police after being found asleep in his car in a fast-food restaurant drive-through lane.
Gaetz’s position on the issue of kneeling for the national anthem is in line with President Donald Trump, a longtime critic of the practice among some NFL players.
The president also took to Twitter in the wake of U.S. Soccer’s decision to say, "I won’t be watching much anymore!“
In the opening salvo of the weekend Twitter war, Perlman tagged Trump and Gaetz in a tweet reading, “The US Soccer team called and you guessed it... said they couldn’t give any less of a f... about what you two dip..... think.” (The profanities were spelled out in the tweet.)
Perlman has a long list of film and TV credits, but is perhaps best known for his leading roles in the two “Hellboy” movies in 2004 and 2008, and as the white supremacist leader of a motorcycle gang in the FX cable TV series “Sons of Anarchy” that ran from 2008 to 2014.
In a later tweet, Perlman wrote to Gaetz, “... (D)o you think it’s just Hollywood that thinks you’re an a......? Read the comments, I’ll wait ...”
Gaetz responded in kind, telling Perlman, “Honestly? The fact that Hollywood thinks I’m an a...... is a badge of honor. You wouldn’t be tweeting about me if my message weren’t true & effective. Threatens your wokeness. How triggered will you be when @realDonaldTrump is re-elected? ...”
Both men spelled out the profanities in their tweets.
The digital sniping also included Perlman claiming that Gaetz won his seat representing Northwest Florida in Congress by virtue of gerrymandering in the 1st Congressional District.
Gaetz refuted the claim by pointing out that his district is bordered on two sides by the Alabama state line, and on a third side by the Gulf of Mexico.
“It’s literally impossible to gerrymander,” Gaetz replied, going on to goad Perlman by telling him, “Try again.”
“Try again?” Perlman responded. “You literally brought a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union. Doesn’t get sicker than that. Buzz off punk, it’s past your bedtime.”
Perlman’s reference was to Gaetz providing a ticket to the 2018 State of the Union address to Charles Johnson, a far-right political activist who has suggested that the number of Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis in World War II has been massively inflated.
At the time, Gaetz told Fox Business News he had met Johnson “just briefly before allowing him to snag a ticket that was at our office. ... But some of the claims against Mr. Johnson are not accurate. He’s not a Holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist, those are unfortunate characterizations of him. I did not know he was as infamous and controversial as he was when he came by.”
Gaetz announced his plan to introduce legislation to compel members of the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams to stand for the anthem during last weeks’ installment of his new weekly podcast.
“This is the U.S. national soccer team, making the decision that the soccer players who play underneath our flag do not have to stand for it,” Gaetz said.
Gaetz went on to say that U.S. soccer “is not like some essential thing that we have to have, if, lashed to the U.S. soccer team, is this sense of such extreme wokeness that we cannot be proud of the United States while wearing the uniform of the United States.”
Gaetz claims that there is a difference between National Football League players kneeling for the anthem because the football players “are private people working for a private company in a private league,” who retain their constitutional First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
PS: You’re lucky for this guy Matt. If it weren’t for him you’d be the ugliest politician walking. @mattgaetz pic.twitter.com/uUgUDKHgZA— Ron Perlman (@perlmutations) June 15, 2020
In that light, it is not clear how Gaetz plans to compel the nonprofit U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) to prohibit its players from kneeling during the national anthem.
The USSF has no direct connection to the federal government, and is self-funded through corporate sponsorships, broadcasting rights fees, game revenue and private contributions.
Gaetz did not immediately return a Monday telephone call and text message seeking comment on the specifics of his proposed legislation.
But in his podcast, Gaetz noted a 2019 legislative effort by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, to withhold any federal funding in support of soccer’s 2026 World Cup, set to be held across the United States, Canada and Mexico, until pay for the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams is equalized.
Manchin’s bill, introduced in November of last year, has languished in the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Nonetheless, Gaetz said in his podcast that “if we can compel equal pay, I certainly think we have the right to compel that our national team stand for the national anthem.”
Gaetz noted that, outside of their work on the U.S. soccer teams, players certainly have the right to protest and exercise other First Amendment rights.
But, he added, “while you serve on that team, while our anthem is playing, I think there is an obligation to respect our country.”
My district map is below. Facts must be difficult for you to process in your current state of wokeness. pic.twitter.com/TuIuKVTDdL— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 15, 2020
Try again? Dude, you brought a Holocaust denier to the State Of The Union. Doesn’t get sicker than that. Buzz off punk, it’s past your bedtime. https://t.co/mFRiR9I2jw— Ron Perlman (@perlmutations) June 15, 2020
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