Et tu, Lauren Book - Florida Politics

Et tu, Lauren Book

There is a scene in the always-watchable movie “The Late Shift” — a behind-the-scenes look at the network politics that embroil television executives responsible for late-night programming after 1991’s retirement announcement of Johnny Carson — in which Tonight Show producer Peter Lassally (played by Steven Gilborn) has a come-to-Jesus conversation with David Letterman in which he tells him he will not — nor should he want to — replace Carson in the 11:30 p.m. slot.

Letterman, of course, does not want to hear that. “Jesus, why are you doing this to me?” Lassally reminds him that he was the one who “moved heaven and earth” for Letterman to be in the position to replace Carson, so trust him when he says Letterman should not do it.

Come-to-Jesus conversations are never easy.

Sooner rather than later someone needs to have one with state Sen. Jack Latvala.

Latvala could have/can “beat” the sexual harassment charge leveled against him by Senate aide Rachel Perrin Rogers. Yes, it’s likely the special master will find that probable cause for the complaint to move forward exists, but it will essentially come down to a “he said, she said” situation. Latvala has repeatedly said he will fight all the way to a final vote on the Senate floor, which would require a two-thirds vote of the body to expel him.

Up until a week ago, Latvala may have been able to survive this. Whereas other reporters have suggested that the entire Democratic caucus would vote to expel Latvala, until recently, I was not sure about that. I have spoken to at least three who had serious reservations about voting to expel Latvala. I also believe a handful of Republican members — Wilton Simpson, Lizbeth Benacquisto — would have had to recuse themselves from a final vote. In other words, no one really knows the math behind an expulsion vote.

Enter Lauren Book‘s complaint.

There’s just no way Latvala can survive it. Frank Artiles was forced to resign because he said the wrong thing to another member in a late-night bar setting. What Book is alleging Latvala did is worse than that by a magnitude of five.

And remember, Book has more credibility on the issues of abuse than almost any other elected official, save Benacquisto. Period. If Book says something is inappropriate or wrong, you simply have to trust that she knows better.

I do.

So the reality for Jack Latvala is, yes, he may have been able to survive Perrin Rogers’ complaint, but he will not be able to survive Book’s.

I’ve moved heaven and earth over the last seven years to advance the political career of Jack Latvala, backing his return to the Senate in 2010 and his bid for the Senate presidency. I’ve supported his political allies here in Tampa Bay. And, just so we’re clear, I believe him when he says he hasn’t knowingly touched someone inappropriately.

I’ve moved heaven and earth, but it’s time to end L’Affaire Latvala. His opponents have outplayed him.

Perrin Rogers decision to pre-emptively out her name last week to POLITICO Florida was a brilliant tactical move, whereas Latvala’s clumsy television interviews were a disaster. Latvala probably can’t be blamed for suggesting that Perrin Rogers’ husband, Brian Hughes, was working for a prospective gubernatorial campaign (who knew that Hughes had parted ways with another client?) but Latvala didn’t need to go there in the first place. What he should have done — and to be clear, this is what I suggested to him — was have his attorney ask Senate President Joe Negron to ask Benacquisto to recuse herself because Hughes is her political consultant. That’s an easy-to-understand conflict of interest. It could have been raised privately.

Instead, Latvala went on Bay News 9.

The irony is that Latvala has been so effective in raising questions about Perrin Rogers’ credibility that he has immolated himself in the process.

A month ago, I offered “Advice for Jack Latvala,” writing:

Shut up. No matter what else is reported … no matter how much you want to respond … don’t say another damn word! At least not for 48 hours. 72 hours of silence would be even better. The longer you go without saying anything, the less fuel there will be for the fire.

The truth is your instincts for how to respond are horrible, if not downright incriminating. You are your own worst enemy. This line — “If my political opponents want a fight, then it’s a fight they will get it” — is, without a doubt, the worst thing you can say right now.

… Just go dark for the time being. It’s the last thing the political world expects from you right now.

Obviously, that advice was not followed.

Hopefully, this latest advice will be given its due.

Make a deal.

Perhaps you can make a deal that does not even involve you responding to Perrin Rogers’ complaint. Perhaps you can make a deal that ends the special master’s investigation before he delivers a ruling. Perhaps the deal could include sealing the special master’s findings.

But it’s time to make a deal.

Book’s complaint is the unkindest cut of all and cannot be survived.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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