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Matt Gaetz comes to Stephanie Murphy’s defense over attack ad

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy has gained an unlikely defender as she tries to stamp out a fresh attack ad in her re-election campaign for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

The ad, paid for by Republican opponent Scott Sturgill, attempts to brand her as “steakhouse Stephanie” as it accuses her of holding a posh fundraiser in DC while her constituents faced the brunt of Hurricane Irma, including days without power.

For Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, an “absolute warrior” in the eyes of President Donald Trump, the ad was a bridge too far. Within hours of the Sturgill ad dropping, he made clear exactly what he thought about it.

If “BS” was a bit unclear, he remedied that moments later by calling it a “lie.” He later complimented Murphy for her bipartisan approach to her work on the House Armed Services Committee, on which Gaetz also sits.

When it comes to the content of the ad, nearly every accusation it makes is easily disproved.

Murphy’s fundraiser was on Sept. 7, not Sept. 13, and she was already back home in her district by Sept. 8, helping fill sandbags in preparation for Irma’s landfall.

Where was Murphy on Sept. 13, during the time Sturgill claims the fundraiser took place? She was in DC, yes, but not at a steakhouse. She was a couple chairs down from President Trump imploring him to greenlight federal aid to Florida for Irma recovery.

Those 300,000 without power days after the storm? Count Murphy among them. Here’s what she and her family were up to on Sept. 15.

When their ad was met with backlash, Sturgill and Co. put out a missive obsessing over transaction dates and on her Federal Elections Commission filings and accusing Murphy of lying about the timeline because the steakhouse was paid on Sept. 13 — for a businessman, Sturgill seems to have a hard time wrapping his head around the concept of invoicing.

“And if it’s true the fundraiser happened on the 7th, three days after a state of emergency was declared, that’s even worse,” said Abigail Hirn, Sturgill’s communications director.

She argued that in any state of emergency “the most important job for a congressman is actually being in the district because hurricane preparation really does make a life-or-death difference. Nothing else matters, certainly not fundraising and partisan politics.”

Hurricane prep certainly does make a difference, but to argue members of Congress are elected to serve as some sort of in-district mascot says more about Sturgill than it does about Murphy.

As Gaetz put it in that earlier tweet, “Having congress fly in for storms is not helpful. Being in DC 2 coordinate fed response (or grab the throats of federal agencies) is better.”

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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