Rep. Matt Gaetz was his usual despicable self when he spoke of women abortion rights advocates in a speech over the weekend.
“Why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions?” This preternaturally smarmy cretin under investigation for sex trafficking a minor told 5,000 attendees at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Florida. “Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.”
But Gaetz ventured into a new realm of absolute craziness when his remarks turned to undocumented immigrants and monarch butterflies.
“Our America is not for the illegal aliens who leave our nation poorer, dirtier and less safe. They have made a mockery of our laws. And illegal aliens have destroyed some of the most critical monarch butterfly habitats in the world,” he said.
He added, “I bet you didn’t know that.”
Actually, nobody would know that—because it is not true.
Monarchs have long been under threat, in part because of land development and climate change, more so due to genetic modification of crops that allowed the use of the glyphosate herbicide Roundup, resulting in a drastic reduction of the milkweed plant, which monarchs lay their eggs upon and and which their caterpillars feed. Their population as they winter south of the border has sharply declined—and the summer population has dwindled in some sections of the country to where one conservation group has listed monarchs as endangered. But the summertime numbers have risen elsewhere north of the border.
Most importantly, and contrary to what Gaetz suggested, a recent study in the scientific journal Global Change Biology reported that the overall summering monarch population in America has remained stable over the past four decades.
And none of it, north or south of the border, has anything to do with undocumented immigrants.
Gaetz compounded one falsehood with another as he continued his speech, saying, “And before you say that monarch butterflies are not that significant, we need the monarch butterfly to pollinate our fields for the foods that we eat here in our country.”
In truth, monarchs do not pollinate food crops. That role is performed by bees.
“A lot of people call me a dove on foreign policy ’cause I’m not trying to start like three wars before lunch time tomorrow. But, I’d rather go to war to protect the monarch butterfly habitat than to decipher which dude in a tracksuit gets to rule Crimea,” Gaetz said with his next breath.
All of which gives rise to a question: Why would Gaetz fixate on monarchs?Why would he invent a threat to our agricultural crops and joke about a very real threat to the whole world’s food supply?
A Gaetz spokesman was asked exactly how the congressman believes “illegal aliens” are endangering monarchs and whether he is aware that every assertion in the speech regarding the butterflies is disputed by scientific fact.
“While the Congressman takes exception with some of your assertions and inferences, he’d grant your premise for the sake of saying he’d still go to war over monarchs before Crimea,” the spokesman replied in an email.
The Daily Beast’s assertions are confirmed by Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg, founder of the North American Butterfly Association and its National Butterfly Center.
Glassberg has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and invented DNA fingerprints that have enabled law enforcement to solve countless cases. But he has been fascinated by butterflies since he was 5, and now concentrates on his first love in science. He was one of the authors of the paper that reported on monarch population overall.
“The summer populations have remained relatively stable,” he told The Daily Beast. “There are certain areas that have gone down, there are certain areas that have gone up. The numbers of monarchs in the overwintering sites in Mexico are significantly less than they were.”
He recalled the occasions he was down in Mexico when the monarchs arrived by the millions and millions, concluding their annual migration from north of the border.
“It was truly one of the great natural spectacles,” he said. “It was amazing. And now it’s down dramatically… So clearly something is happening, either on the migration or the overwintering side, that’s affecting the butterflies. So I am not saying that there’s nothing to be concerned about.”
But, he added, other populations are not down significantly. Some are even up.
“What I can tell you is that monarchs are not going extinct,” Glassberg said.
He noted one change in these butterflies that have traditionally wintered in Mexico.
“Monarchs increasingly are now spending the winter in the Southern United States, especially Florida and the Gulf Coast,” he reported.
Which means those monarchs may be there when the sex trafficking investigation of Gaetz is finally wrapped up.