Gaetz tweets photo of teenage adopted son after hearing battle

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzMatt Gaetz, Roger Stone back far-right activist Laura Loomer in congressional bid Gaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill MORE (R-Fla.) announced he has an adopted Cuban teenage son the day after a heated exchange with Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondHillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Lawmakers introduce bill designating billion to secure state and local IT systems Experts warn mail-in voting misinformation could threaten elections MORE (D-La.), in which the Democratic lawmaker invoked his experience raising a black son as a reason for pushing for strong police reform. 

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The jousting took place during the House Judiciary Committee markup of police reform legislation offered by Democrats. The bill would ban chokeholds, mandate body cameras, make lynching a federal crime, prohibit no-knock warrants in drug cases and establish a federal registry of officers accused of misconduct. Gaetz opposes the bill.

Gaetz reacted at the Wednesday night hearing in anger after Richmond said “as a black male ... who was a victim of excessive force, who has a black son, who has worries that you all don’t, and to my colleagues, especially the ones that keep introducing amendments that are a tangent and a distraction from what we’re talking about, you all are white males.”

Gaetz initially sought to turn the discussion about law enforcement into a question of whether the two lawmakers could equally relate to the fear of police brutality happening to their children on a personal level. 

Richmond was not directly speaking to Gaetz until the Republican lawmaker interjected and asked: “Are you suggesting you’re certain that none of us have nonwhite children?”

Cutting off Gaetz, Richmond said: “I’m not about to get sidetracked about the color of our children.”

“Black people in the streets 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,” Richmond said.

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“You’re claiming you have more concern for my family than I do?” Gaetz shot back. “Who in the hell do you think you are?”

The next day, Gaetz tweeted: “For all those wondering, this is my son Nestor.  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.”

The Florida Republican and his ex-girlfriend — who is Nestor’s sister — took Nestor in and raised him after Nestor’s mother died of breast cancer in Cuba when he was 12. 

Gaetz's office said the congressman did not file paperwork to be a legal guardian, but that he had raised him as his son.

Gaetz's sister Erin shared multiple photos of the two in response to doubts about their relationship on social media. 

Former Rep. Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Republicans face worsening outlook in battle for House The Hill's Campaign Report: Cook shifts 20 House races toward Democrats MORE (D-Calif.) also vouched for Gaetz amid criticism, saying he “talks about Nestor more than anything, has done so much for his son & is truly a proud dad.”

Hill explained that Gaetz had not previously publicly discussed Nestor because was trying to “protect him from the crap that comes from being a politician’s kid.”

Gaetz called the criticism “just hateful and weird and mean” during his "Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz” podcast slated to be posted Friday afternoon.

Richmond, a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), declined to comment on the image Gaetz posted with Nestor.

Gaetz said in the podcast that his relationship with Nestor was never a secret but that he alerted Nestor that people would learn about their relationship shortly after the hearing. 

“When I called Nestor and told him that, as a consequence of some heated debate in the Judiciary Committee that folks were going to learn about him and our family, he said, 'Well, Matt, everyone already knows about our family.' Because, you know, when we go to our favorite burrito shack and Fort Walton, everybody knows that we're father, son, you know, when we go to church, when we go to the soccer games, when we hang out around his school, you know, there is obviously an awareness that I'm the one taking care of him, and that we're a family,” Gaetz said in the podcast. 

The committee advanced the legislation Wednesday, which came in response to massive protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

This story was updated at 4:30 p.m.