Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was swiftly shut down by a Pentagon official on Tuesday after trying to introduce Chinese propaganda as a credible source during a congressional hearing.
In a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Gaetz used his time to criticize U.S. efforts to aid Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion. The committee heard from several Pentagon officials, including Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy.
Gaetz began to grill Kahl, asking him whether the Pentagon currently has personnel in Ukraine. Kahl acknowledged a “couple dozen” Defense Department employees at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, but no other personnel.
Kahl declined to answer Gaetz’s question about whether CIA officials are “training folks in Ukraine,” stressing that he could only discuss such subjects in a classified setting. When Gaetz asked if the U.S. is supplying weapons to Ukraine’s Azov Battalion — a far-right nationalist paramilitary unit — Kahl responded: “Not that I’m aware of.”
The Florida Republican then attempted to create a gotcha moment, entering into the record what he said was an investigative report by the Global Times, an English-language daily tabloid that’s a subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper The People’s Daily.
Gaetz, who appeared unaware of the tabloid’s propaganda links, cited the report in claiming that the U.S. had supplied weapons to the Azov Battalion as early as 2018. Asked if he disagreed with the report, Kahl calmly responded: “I’m sorry, is this the Global Times from China?”
“No, this is …” Gaetz said before looking at the report in front of him and conceding. “Yeah, it might be. Yeah.”
“As a general matter, I don’t take Beijing’s propaganda at face value,” Kahl said, his right pointer finger pressed against his temple.
After Kahl repeated the statement a second time, Gaetz conceded. “Fair enough, I would agree with that assessment,” he said.
The Global Times is popularly referred to as “China’s Fox News.” It often covers international issues from a Chinese ultranationalistic perspective. Under the Trump administration, the State Department designated the tabloid as a “foreign mission” that is “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by the Chinese government, according to The Washington Post.
Gaetz’s introduction of the Global Times report as a congressional hearing exhibit is especially notable as tensions grow about the possibility of China supplying weapons to help Russia wage war against Ukraine.
Before going after Kahl, Gaetz spent several minutes attempting, unsuccessfully, to get Defense Department Inspector General Robert Storch to admit that the Biden administration has lost track of U.S. funding to Ukraine. Gaetz and some other GOP House extremists want to halt U.S. aid to Ukraine.