Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy condemned Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., during a Friday news conference and then again on twitter after the GOP congressman attended a crowded party in the Garden State for the Young Republicans, breaking the state’s COVID-19 rules as cases spike across the country.
“That guy in the middle, the tall, handsome fella in the gray suit, that is Representative Matt Putz – oh sorry, Matt Gaetz, and based upon his past performances, it is obvious being a knucklehead is not beyond the pale for him,” Murphy said during a Friday news conference, reported by NBC News 4. “He was actually Sarah Palin’s backup act for this event.”
“I hope you’re watching Matt — you are not welcome in New Jersey, and frankly I don’t ever want you back in this state,” he added.
He then reiterated his criticisms in a tweet and said, “Last night, the [New York City Young Republicans] allegedly snuck into Jersey City to hold a “gala fundraiser” – ignoring our social distancing and mask rules.”
“It is beyond the pale that anyone would willingly endanger people in another state,” he added. “Jersey City law enforcement is investigating this matter.”
“It is also beyond the pale that Rep Matt Putz – I mean [Rep. Matt Gaetz] – would participate in this. What a fool,” Murphy said.
“Matt – You are not welcome in New Jersey, and frankly I don’t ever want you back in this state,” he repeated.
The tweet included a photo of Gaetz at the party, surrounded by groups of people, none of whom were wearing masks or social distancing.
New Jersey coronavirus regulations have dictated weddings, religious ceremonies and indoor political gatherings are required to not exceed 150 people or 25 percent capacity of the venue, whichever is lower, according to the state’s COVID information website.
Whether or not the gathering constitutes a political event, or whether it violated the capacity limits remains unclear, but Murphy said the event is being investigated by state officials.
“In Jersey City we take Covid enforcement very seriously, and this event appears to be an egregious violation of the governor’s executive orders, including capacity limitations and mandatory mask wearing,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement to NBC News 4.
Though the location of the event was not posted on social media, Gaetz and other fellow GOP members mocked Democrats and their COVID regulations. One Trump supporter telling New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to “Come and get me,” while posing in a picture with Gaetz.
New Jersey’s chief prosecutor joined the social media jabbing, and reminded the Republicans, that not only New York City has coronavirus restrictions.
“Pssst…you are in [Jersey City] – not New York,” Prosecutor Jake Hudnut said.
“Gov. Cuomo may not be able to ‘come and get’ you,” he added. “But I can.”
Gaetz responded to the New Jersey governor on Twitter, saying he “would regret” his tweet.
“You’re gonna regret this tweet when you move to Florida like the rest of New Jersey,” Gaetz tweeted in response to Murphy before thanking him for calling him “handsome.”
New Jersey has reported over 356,000 cases and more than 15,000 deaths since the pandemic started.
In recent weeks they have seen spikes surpassing their spring-time peak daily caseload — with Friday figures surpassing their previous daily high in April by more than 1,300 cases.