FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Congressman Matt Gaetz joined the Forsyth County Republican Party on Friday.

He was the keynote speaker during the Lincoln Day Dinner event at Legacy Stables and Events Center at 4151 Thomasville Rd.

FOX8 Cassie Fambro posted updates live throughout the event.

While in North Carolina, Gaetz voiced support for Congressman Mark Walker and said he supports Walker’s bid to oust Congresswoman Kathy Manning (NC-06).

Gaetz also said he would campaign for Dan Bishop to win attorney general over Jeff Jackson.

“They can tar and feather me in the beltway of Washington … Tonight, I am in the Tar Heel State, and we are going to get down to business,” Gaetz said.

Speaking with FOX8, Gaetz said North Carolina is a critical state for the Republican Party. 

“North Carolina is one of the most important states in the country with the electoral map, and you’ve got a number of marquee races,” he said. 

Gaetz gave a nod to North Carolina congresswoman Virginia Foxx who told reporters to “shut up” on Wednesday. 

“When some sniveling pencil neck little reporter tried to smear our newly elected speaker, it was your congresswoman Virginia Foxx there to defend him,” Gaetz said. 

Foxx did not apologize Friday night.  

“I was not going to let someone in the press rain on our parade,” Foxx said.

When asked directly, Gaetz said Foxx’s moment was appreciated.  

“We all like the fact that Virginia Foxx brings a certain elementary school energy to the House of Representatives,” Gaetz said. 

Gaetz also used his speech to weigh in on international conflict.  

“I am more worried about the devastation in Palestine, Ohio, that all too many people have forgotten than I am about some illusory concept of Palestine in the middle east,” he said.

Gaetz said amid international conflict and strife in the House, he believes Republicans are strong going into 2024.  

“I can tell you I have never been more encouraged that the best days of our country and our movement, are ahead,” he said.

Gaetz is serving his fourth term representing a Florida district.

He is a close Trump ally who filed the motion to vacate the chair, the procedure used to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and he led the debate on the House floor for those seeking to pass the motion.

He was also a holdout in January when McCarthy ran to become speaker.

The defining moment during that showdown came when Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican ally of McCarthy, angrily confronted Gaetz on the House floor before being pulled back by a colleague.

Gaetz could face political repercussions for his actions as many Republican lawmakers blame him for creating chaos and view him as looking out for himself rather than for the good of the party.

Gaetz’s visit to Forsyth County comes days after Mike Johnson was elected as House speaker and McCarthy became the first speaker in U.S. history to be voted out of the position by his colleagues.

McCarthy had support from 208 members of his conference to remain as House speaker, but it took only eight dissenters in his party to boot him from the job. A handful of Republicans joined with Democrats to make history.

The eight dissenters are:

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz
  • Rep. Andy Biggs
  • Rep. Ken Buck
  • Rep. Tim Buckett
  • Rep. Eli Crane
  • Rep. Bob Good
  • Rep. Nancy Mace
  • Rep. Matt Rosendale

Most of the eight dissenters have never been members of the McCarthy fan club. They chafed at the deal McCarthy made with President Joe Biden to avoid a federal default.

“They don’t get to say they’re conservative because they’re angry and they’re chaotic,” McCarthy said. “That’s not the party I belong to. The party of Reagan was if you believed in your principles, that you could govern in a conservative way. They are not conservative and they do not have the right to have the title.”

While each has their reasons, the eight lawmakers generally voiced frustration with how McCarthy has moved priority legislation through the chamber, namely spending bills. Some have also described him as untrustworthy and failing to living up to various agreements he made to become speaker back in January, something he hotly disputed when he announced he would not seek the post again.

Gaetz said McCarthy didn’t follow through on many of the commitments he made to win the speaker’s job, and that’s what drove him.

“Kevin McCarthy is a feature of the swamp. He has risen to power by collecting special interest money and redistributing that money in exchange for favors,” Gaetz said. “We are breaking the fever now, and we should elect a speaker who’s better.”

“Look, you all know Matt Gaetz. You know it was personal. It had nothing to do about spending,” McCarthy said. “It all was about getting attention from you. I mean we were getting e-mail fundraisers as he’s doing it.”

During Friday night’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Gaetz said, “Kevin McCarthy was the Lebron James of special interest funding.”

Evangelical Christian conservatives have long had allies in top Republican leadership in Congress. But never before have they had one so thoroughly embedded in their movement as new House Speaker Mike Johnson, a longtime culture warrior in the courthouse, in the classroom and in Congress.

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Religious conservatives cheered Johnson’s election Wednesday, after which he brought his Bible to the rostrum before taking the oath of office. “The Bible is very clear that God is the one that raises up those in authority … each of you, all of us,” he said.

“Someone asked me today in the media, ‘People are curious, what does Mike Johnson think about any issue?’” Johnson said Thursday in a Fox News interview. “I said, ’Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.’”

But progressive faith leaders are sounding the alarm about Johnson’s opposition to LGBTQ rights and his rallying of Republicans around former President Donald Trump’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 election results. And, more broadly, they are concerned about Johnson’s “desire to impose his narrow religious vision upon the rest of us,” in the words of Paul Raushenbush, president of Interfaith Alliance, a broad coalition of progressive religious groups.