PolitiFact: Gaetz draws misleading comparison on Jones 'campaign event'

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit on July 23, 2022, in Tampa, Florida.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit on July 23, 2022, in Tampa, Florida.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., posted two photos side-by-side on Facebook that he suggested showed a stark difference between support for his re-election and support for his Democratic challenger.

"Gaetz vs. Jones campaign events," Gaetz wrote in the caption on the Sept. 10 Facebook post.

One image showed a room full of people, some holding "Keep Gaetz fighting" signs. It was taken at a ticketed event Gaetz hosted in July in Navarre, Florida, as part of his "Back Our Troops Tour" with former Trump adviser Kash Patel.

The other photo showed a booth draped with a tablecloth promoting "Rebekah Jones for Congress." Jones is a former Florida Department of Health data analyst. The sole person in that image has their head down on the table.

Jones challenges Gaetz: Rebekah Jones wins Democratic primary, will take on Matt Gaetz for U.S. House seat

Gaetz also shared the post on Twitter.

We found his comparison misleads by ignoring critical facts.

Politifact Truth-O-Meter rating: Mostly False
Politifact Truth-O-Meter rating: Mostly False

The photo showing Jones' table was taken Sept. 10 at the Emerald Coast Holistic Health Expo, a convention dedicated to holistic wellness and environmental sustainability. Jones said she attended the event with her son in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

The expo's website listed Jones as an exhibitor.

Jones disputed Gaetz's characterization that the photo showed a "campaign event" and said on her campaign site that she had stepped away from the booth while her son, who has autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and anxiety, had a quiet moment to himself following a period of overstimulation.

"My 12-year-old son is autistic," Jones wrote. "He still struggles with social cues and limits, and being in public is not something he's entirely comfortable with just yet. He finally came out for once, and Matt Gaetz attacked him."

Scott Chase, the owner of the Emerald Coast Holistic Health Expo, confirmed Jones participated at the event as an exhibitor.

Chase said Gaetz used an "out-of-context moment" to make a political statement.

"This was not a political campaign event for anyone or any political party," Chase told PolitiFact. "She or Gaetz could have registered as an exhibitor, and neither would have been refused."

When we asked Gaetz's campaign about the claim, a staffer pointed out the "big campaign banner" for Jones in the photo.

Although Jones attended the wellness convention as a congressional candidate, those attending were not there specifically to hear from Jones or to show their support for her candidacy. Jones did not host the event, nor was it held on her behalf.

Gaetz's claim contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Sept. 10, 2022

Facebook post, Sept. 10, 2022

Matt Gaetz tweet, Sept. 11, 2022

Email interview with Joel Valdez, spokesperson for Gaetz, Sept. 14, 2022

Email interview with Rebekah Jones, candidate for Florida District 1, Sept. 14, 2022

Email interview with Scott Chase, owner of the Emerald Coast Holistic Health Expo, Sept. 15, 2022

Eventbrite.com, Back Our Troops Tour with Matt Gaetz and Kash Patel, July 30, 2022

Emerald Coast Holistic Health Expo, Expo directory, assessed Sept. 16, 2022

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: PolitiFact finds photo Gaetz shared of Jones "campaign event" misleading