During a contentious House Judiciary Committee hearing on police reform legislation this week, Louisiana Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond engaged in a spirited — and much-quoted — back-and-forth with Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz over amendments being introduced to the bill.
“As a black male who went to the 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, 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,” Richmond said in a viral clip.
“You’ve never lived in my shoes, and you do not know what it’s like to be an African-American male. And all I’m saying is if you are opposed to this legislation, let’s just have the vote, but please do not come in this committee room and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community.”
“Who in the hell do you think you are?”
FIERY: Rep. Cedric Richmond and Rep. Matt Gaetz spar during House debate pic.twitter.com/oIpBFfGa2N
— The Hill (@thehill) June 18, 2020
“I will give you the benefit of the doubt that it is unconscious bias that I’m hearing because at worst, it’s conscious bias,” Richmond said, about the 3-minute mark in the video above.
As Fox News noted, Richmond got pushback from Gaetz.
“I appreciate your passion,” Gaetz said. “Are you suggesting that you’re certain that none of us have non-white children? Because you reflect on your black son and said none of us–”
“Matt, Matt, stop,” Richmond said. “I’m not about to get sidetracked about the color of our children.”
“I already know that there are people on the other side that have black grandchildren. It is not about the color of your kids. It is about black males, black people in the streets that are getting killed.”
When Gaetz began to object strenuously, Richmond cut him off.
“It is not about the color of your kids,” he said. “It is about black males, 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.”
I give you this part of the exchange, in particular Richmond’s caveat, because I assume the Louisiana representative might have known something viewers at home didn’t: Gaetz has raised a Latino child who came over from Cuba at the age of 12.
Nestor turned 19 a few days ago & will be off to University. He arrived here at 12.
As you can imagine, 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.
Well, I have.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 18, 2020
“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,” Gaetz tweeted Thursday. “I am so proud of him and raising him has been the best, most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life.”
“Nestor turned 19 a few days ago & will be off to University. He arrived here at 12,” Gaetz continued.
“As you can imagine, 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. Well, I have.”
Gaetz told People magazine, in a story published Thursday, that he was dating Nestor’s older sister when the boy came to the United States after his mother died of breast cancer. With a slight interruption during the time Nestor’s sister and Gaetz had broken up, he’s been living with the congressman.
The Gaetz family didn’t formally adopt Nestor, although Gaetzs told People that their “relationship as a family is defined by our love for each other, not by any paperwork.”
“He is a part of my family story,” Gaetz told People. “My work with Nestor, our family, no element of my public service could compare to the joy that our family has brought me.”
As for liberal tweets accusing Gaetz of using Nestor as a prop, Gaetz said he didn’t care.
“I haven’t responded to it there and feel no need to respond to it now,” he said. “My son and I owe no explanation about our family to the blue-checkmark brigade.”
The two also appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Thursday to discuss Richmond and Gaetz’s on-floor fight.
Nestor said he didn’t see it live but found out about it via social media.
“I woke up to seeing all these tweets and I was like, ‘What’s going on?” he said, about the 4-minute mark in the video above.
“I think it’s kind of unfair to tell someone that they don’t understand … because of their racial color,” he continued.
“He’s fighting for equality, but if you tell someone … to not get involved, that they don’t understand, because of his color, you’re kind of being a hypocrite there.”
If you’re going to the color of your child as an appeal to emotion when you say that people of color are facing police mistreatment in this country, it’s probably helpful if no one else on the panel is raising children of color, particularly the individual you’re arguing with.
There were plenty of other reasons that Richmond could have used here. He decided against them.
If your argument hinges on identity, it falls apart on identity. Appeals to emotion, alas, won’t change that.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.