Matt Gaetz confronted by activist he body-shamed at State of the Union

GOP congressman Matt Gaetz was confronted at the State of the Union by an activist he previously body-shamed.

Twenty-year-old Olivia Julianna, director of politics and government affairs for the nonprofit Gen-Z for Change, took to Twitter to share her exchange with the Florida Representative at President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union.

Last summer, Ms Julianna criticised Mr Gaetz’s fatphobic remarks during a rally in which he said that “disgusting” women who “look like a thumb” have the “least likelihood of getting pregnant” and have no reason to support abortion rights. The Republican politician responded by sharing a Newsmax article that described his remarks as “sure to raise [the] dander of his political opponents” and included a photo of Ms Julianna, then tweeting “Dander raised...”

Ms Julianna, whose video decrying Mr Gaetz’s distasteful comments garnered more than a million views on TikTok, then launched a campaign for abortion funds that raised more than $2m — a sum she reportedly brought up when she ran into Mr Gaetz on Tuesday.

“Just want everyone to know I just shook @mattgaetz hand and thanked him for helping me raise two million dollars,” Ms Julianna wrote on Twitter. “His response was to say ‘heard you had trouble spending it.’ And to quickly walk away in the opposite direction. What a loser lol.”

Ms Julianna’s remarks have been liked by more than 53,000 and retweeted 3,000 times. She also tweeted that Mr Gaetz had a “weak hand shake.”

In an interview with Newsweek, Ms Julianna also said of the interaction: “Matt Gaetz’s character is similar to his handshake and legislative record—weak.

Ms Julianna was invited as a guest to the State of the Union by California Representative Nanette Barragan.

On Twitter, the activist shared pictures with President Joe Biden, Missouri Representative Cori Bush, New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries and Ms Barragan.

“I’m proud to be a Latina from rural Texas, and tonight Congresswoman Barragan helped make part of my American Dream come true. Truly truly grateful,” Ms Julianna tweeted on Tuesday.

The donations raised from Ms Julianna’s campaign were set to be shared among 50 abortion funds across the US in states threatened by anti-abortion laws enacted in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion care.

The animosity between Ms Julianna and Mr Gaetz first started when the congressman made very misogynistic remarks at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Tampa on 23 July.

“Like, why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions?” he told a crowd. “No one wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.”

He continued: “These people are odious on the inside and out. They’re like, 5’2”, 350 pounds, like, ‘Give me my abortions or I’ll get up and march and protest.’ And I’m thinking – march? You look like you got ankles weaker than the legal reasoning behind Roe v Wade. A few of them need to get up and march. They need to get up and march for like an hour a day. Swing those arms, get the blood pumping, maybe mix in a salad.”

Ms Julianna blasted his remarks, saying, “I’m actually 5’11. 6’4 in heels. I wear them so small men like you are reminded of your place.”

She also mentioned that the Florida congressman is facing a federal investigation following allegations of sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl and accused the congressman of directing his followers to harass her.

At the time, a spokesperson for Mr Gaetz told The Independent that his speech “speaks for itself.” When asked by another reporter whether he believed people who attended abortion rights rallies were “ugly and overweight” and if he had a response to people who were offended by his speech, he replied: “Be offended.”

“I find these people who go out on these pro-abortion and pro-murder rallies odious and just ugly on the inside and out and I make no apology for it,” he told WEAR-TV.

The congressman was among 195 House Republicans who voted against a bill to protect the right to access contraception on 21 July. (Only eight Republicans voted in support.)

He also joined 209 House Republicans who voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act – which would codify a right to abortion care – on 15 July.

Mr Gaetz also voted against the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, which would protect the right of abortion patients who live in states that have outlawed or severely restricted care to travel to other states without risking prosecution or legal action in their home states.