"I don't think that clarified much, but it certainly showed this is a deeply interesting story."
Tucker Carlson appeared stunned after Rep. Matt Gaetz came on Fox News Tuesday night to address allegations of sex trafficking involving a 17-year-old girl.
The Florida Republican called the claims "verifiably false," blamed them on an extortion scheme, suggested Carlson knew a woman involved in the Justice Department investigation and brought up a past sexual misconduct accusation against the TV host.
"You just saw our Matt Gaetz interview," Carlson said after a commercial break. "That was one of the weirdest interviews I've ever conducted."
During the interview, Gaetz named the official he alleges was behind the extortion attempt and pleaded on air for the FBI to release tapes he said proved his innocence. He then claimed authorities had "threatened" a female friend if she didn't confess Gaetz was involved in a "pay-for-play scheme."
"You and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine, you'll remember her," Gaetz said to Carlson.
Looking confused, the conservative commentator interjected, "I don't remember the woman you are speaking of or the context at all, honestly."
At another point, Gaetz compared the horror of being falsely accused of a "terrible sex act" to an accusation once faced by Carlson.
"You were accused of something that you did not do, so you know what this feels like, the pain it can bring to your family," said Gaetz. Carlson explained the reference was to a 20-year-old "sex crime" claim from a "mentally ill viewer."
"And of course, it was not true," added Carlson. "I never met the person."
The Tucker interview came after The New York Times spoke to sources claiming Gaetz was under investigation for potentially violating federal sex trafficking laws -- a probe they reported has been underway for almost a year.
"Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name," a statement from Gaetz read. "No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation."
"I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know, when I was a single guy," Gaetz said to Axios.
"I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I've dated," Gaetz continued. "You know, I've paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I've been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not."
No criminal charges have so far been filed against Gaetz. The Justice Department has not responded to media inquiries.