Opinions Archives - Page 6 of 265 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Face it Dems: Maybe Republicans care more

What I’m about to say won’t go down easily for the most dedicated Florida Democrats. They are the ones who believe they are on a holy quest in 2018 to rescue the state from Republican rule. Passion has never been a problem for those folks, but they keep losing statewide elections and I have a theory why: Maybe Republicans care more.

I’m serious.

I’m not talking about those who were dedicated enough to attend the party’s statewide conference over the weekend in Orlando. Yes, they care deeply and they’ll work hard, but what about everyone else — starting with the many thousands who don’t vote in non-presidential years?

Despite a considerable statistical advantage in the number of registered voters in Florida, Dems have lost five consecutive races for governor. Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature and have lost only one statewide election – Alex Sink beat Tom Lee for chief financial officer in 2006 – in this century.


Just look at the numbers.

Since 1998, when Jeb Bush won the first of his two terms as governor, less than half of the state’s registered voters cast ballots in three of those five cycles. In 2014, Republican Rick Scott beat Charlie Crist by about 64,000 votes in a race with just 50 percent voter turnout.

More than 75,000 of those who did cast ballots that year didn’t vote in the governor’s race.

The turnout is much higher in presidential election years.

This exercise in simple statistics isn’t designed to put readers to sleep, but rather to point out the problem Democrats have in convincing apathetic voters that these off-peak races are kind of important.

It starts with facing truths that will be unpleasant for them.

Democrats fuss about the Tea Party influence that put men like Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in power, but never seem to acknowledge the ground-level work done by those supporters. Tea Party people sweat the small stuff, regularly showing up at forums, local government meetings, civic rallies and so on.

They especially seem to show up on election day, and that seems to tip the balance in low-turnout years.

Democrats were out-flanked by Republicans on state house and senate elections, allowing Republicans to gain complete control of the agenda. Dems have rightly complained gerrymandering is part of that, but that happened because they were asleep at the wheel in the first place.

They have allowed Republicans to dictate the conversation on issues like guns, schools, Medicaid expansion, and so on. When Democrats do have their turn at the mic, their response generally is “Republicans, bad!” They seemed to be caught flat-footed by Scott’s simplistic “Let’s Get To Work” campaign in 2010, almost as if they believed no one would be dumb enough to vote for him.

How’d that work out?

It would also help if they nominated more dynamic candidates at the top of the ticket (which is why I suspect many hope attorney John Morgan gets in the race). Most Democratic gubernatorial candidates in the last several cycles have acted like they were campaigning in a library, using their indoor voice.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson essentially told fellow Democrats over the weekend that it’s their patriotic duty to rescue Florida and the nation from Republicans.

Well, OK.

Judging by the plummeting approval ratings for President Trump, a lot of people would agree with what Nelson said at the Democrats’ state conference at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

“The Republican Party will have to answer to the path that they’ve chosen,” Nelson told party members. “Then it’s our responsibility, not just to criticize them, not just to criticize the president; it’s our responsibility not only as Democrats but as Americans to do what we can to right the ship.”

Bold words, especially from a candidate who likely will be in the fight for his election life next November. But he was speaking to people who are already convinced. The Democrats’ problem is making enough other people care.

Darryl Paulson: Political purges in American politics

Steve Bannon, a former Donald Trump political adviser and the head of Breitbart News, has declared a “season of war” against the Republican establishment.

Bannon is recruiting challengers to all Republican senators except Ted Cruz of Texas.

He is requiring all of the challengers to oppose the nomination of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as party leader. Bannon said the candidates he recruits must “play Brutus to your Julius Caesar.”

President Trump gleefully cheered the announcements this week that Republican senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee will not seek re-election in 2018. Flake was facing a difficult re-election bid, but Corker was favored to win re-election even though Trump said Corker “couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in Tennessee.”

President Trump supports Bannon’s effort to a degree but has promised Republican senators Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and John Barrasso of Wyoming that he will support their 2018 re-election’s.

Trump has also noted that some of the people Bannon is seeking to purge are “great people” and he will “see if I can talk him out of that.”

Some purges have succeeded. Conservatives ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia in 2014 after accusing him of being too moderate and too willing to compromise with Democrats.

Tea Party activists were able to purge several Republicans in 2010, including their support of Marco Rubio over Governor Charlie Crist in the Senate race. Some purges were embarrassing, such as the Tea Party support for Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell over proven Republican vote-getter Mike Castle. O’Donnell won the primary and got trounced in the general election.

Most purges have been dismal failures. The most famous political purge in American history was Franklin Roosevelt’s 1938 attempt to defeat Democratic opponents of his New Deal policies.

Roosevelt preferred an ideologically based party system, with a liberal Democratic Party and a conservative Republican Party. He used one of his “fireside chats” to encourage voters to throw out any members of Congress opposing his policies.

Roosevelt was operating from a position of strength. He won re-election to a second term in 1936 with 61 percent of the vote and lost only two of the 48 states.

In addition, FDR’s approval ratings were sky-high.

Key targets of the purge were Democratic senators Walter George of Georgia, Millard Tydings of Maryland and Ellison “Cotton Ed” Smith of South Carolina, along with a half-dozen other members of Congress.

How successful was Roosevelt? The purge failed. All the targeted senators won re-election and only one House member, John O’Connor of New York, was defeated.

Voters resented Roosevelt’s attempt to influence state elections. The use of the term “purge,” was a direct reference to the purges taking place in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Presidential historian Robert Dallek called the purge “a serious failure.” FDR failed to remove a single senator, and 60 percent of the voters disapproved of the purge/.

If one of the most popular presidents in history could not succeed in purging opponents, how will Trump and Bannon succeed? Trump barely won the election and his approval ratings are at an all-time low for a president in his first year in office.

As Roosevelt discovered, purges not only fail, but they can backfire. Purge targets became more embolden after beating back Roosevelt’s challenge.

More recently, the Tea Party challenged incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The Tea Party candidate won the primary, but Murkowski won the general election as a “write-in” candidate. Trump was powerless to try and win her support in Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.

Even if the purgers fail, they often claim a moral victory. When progressive Democrats opposed the nomination of former long-term Republican Senator Arlen Specter as the Democratic nominee, they challenged Specter in the primary. Specter won, but was so weakened that he lost to conservative Republican Pat Toomey. Purgers ousted the liberal Specter who was replaced by the conservative Toomey, but they claimed victory for ousting a political opportunist who had grilled Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings.

The ideological parties that Roosevelt desired came to pass due to natural events and not due to FDR’s attempts to cleanse the party. Roosevelt would likely be pleased that ideological parties have come to pass in America.

The unanswered question is: Are we better off with our ideological parties, or were we better served by our former party system where both parties had a mix of liberals, conservatives and moderates?


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Karl Dix: Ceres Environmental diligently working to clear debris

For nearly 40 years, Ceres Environmental Services, Inc. (Ceres) has been dedicated to helping communities recover after major storms and natural disasters by removing, reducing and disposing of debris. We understand the importance of this step, as it allows communities to be restored and residents to return to normalcy.

Under pre-storm contracts, Ceres partners closely with valued members of local government staff to prepare for major storm events, like Hurricane Irma. Following the landfall of Hurricane Irma, communities across the state called upon Ceres to clear streets of immediate threats to life, infrastructure and the environment while allowing access to impacted areas by first responders and damage assessors.

Together, Ceres and local government staff enacted debris removal plans to begin immediate debris removal from streets, parks and schools. To date, Ceres has removed in excess of 2 million cubic yards of debris with more than 1,300 hauling units where we have contracts with the local governments. In fact, 80 percent of our clients have already had our crews come in and complete a first pass, and the remaining 20 percent of our clients will see first pass complete by the end of October. This is a commitment Ceres made at the onset to staff, elected officials and communities when we signed pre-storm contracts. This is a commitment Ceres intends to keep.

Despite these efforts, however, there have been a number of erroneous news reports that claim Ceres is deliberately delaying the removal of debris or asking for higher rates in the region before work is performed. These claims are categorically false. Ceres has worked around the clock to ensure debris is removed in the wake of this devastating storm and have never demanded higher rates before performing our duties. While it’s true that there have been market forces at play beyond our control that have created challenges with retaining workforce throughout Florida, Ceres has worked tirelessly to resolve these issues quickly and have never wavered in our commitment to removing debris in the communities we serve.

And, for those communities that are currently underserved, Ceres stands ready to assist the local governments and its residents. For example, Ceres is prepared to make a number of crews available in Collier and Lee Counties, one of the hardest hit areas of the state, to augment the ongoing cleanup effort in the region. This will allow for those communities to recover more quickly and residents to return to a sense of normalcy.

The reality is, Hurricane Irma was an unprecedented storm that touched almost every county in the Sunshine State. The storm left massive amounts of debris in its wake and created an arduous and time-consuming cleanup process. As a Sarasota-based company with employees living in the same communities in which we currently serve, we understand that it is frustrating for residents, elected officials and staff to still see debris in their neighborhoods and are anxious to put the recovery process behind them. As your partner, Ceres hears your frustrations and is committed to removing debris as quickly and efficiently as possible.

We take seriously the vital role Ceres plays in the recovery after a major storm like Irma. As we move forward, Ceres is mindful of the challenges that remain, but we have demonstrated our unwavering commitment to removing debris as quickly as possible in communities across the state. And, Ceres will continue to uphold that commitment.


Karl Dix is Director of Client Services, Ceres Environmental Services, Inc.


Greg Steube: Hotels want Florida to be like Communist China

Recently it was reported by The New York Times that President Xi of China and the Communist Party, in order “To reduce the flow of outsiders to the capital, Airbnb and similar home-sharing services have been temporarily suspended.” Nothing would make the Florida hotel industry and local governments happier than if they could do the same and ban short-term vacation rentals in our state.

Since 2011, local governments and hotels have attempted to restrict or outright ban vacation rentals. Flagler County has an ordinance in place that prohibits the rental of private property for less than six months – they currently have over $22 million in Bert Harris claims as a result. Additionally, the City of Miami Beach is fining private property owners for violating their vacation rental ordinance to the tune of $20,000 a day.

In my region, you can’t rent out your property in Longboat Key for less than 30 days. Anna Maria Island has millions of dollars in Bert Harris claims from private property owners due to their vacation rental ordinance.

A recent op-ed by Carol Dover of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) presents an alarmist, inaccurate and unfair portrait of short-term vacation rentals that fails to acknowledge their important contribution to our local and state economies – or her organization’s self-interest in limiting them.

Large hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott, for example, pay untold amounts to FRLA and its national organization to protect their market share. Dover claims that vacation rentals are “illegal hotels” – which is absurd. Florida Statutes Section 509.242 defines “A hotel is any public lodging establishment containing sleeping room accommodations for 25 or more guests …” Most vacation rentals are privately-owned single-family homes or condos. The only difference between a vacation rental and renting out your private property under the landlord-tenant law is the length of time the occupant stays.

The fact is, travelers love the options they have with vacation rentals and the authentic experiences they enjoy staying in rented rooms, homes, apartments or condos. A recent statewide survey found that 93 percent of Floridians believe Florida travelers should be permitted to rent accommodations other than hotels – such as vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts.

An economic impact study showed that Florida’s vacation rental market had a total economic impact of $31.1 billion from an estimated 17 million vacation rental visitors in 2013. Florida’s vacation rental industry directly or indirectly supports a total of 322,032 jobs annually generating approximately $12.64 billion a year in labor income.

Although that study is four years old and was released well before companies like Airbnb and HomeAway became household names, we can only assume the economic impact has grown. For a state that relies heavily on sales tax revenue, that economic impact is significant.

As the 27th President of the United States, William Howard Taft, once so eloquently stated: “Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.”

The FRLA’s interest in this issue is not about creating a level playing field. It’s about taking away consumer choice and protecting hotel market share.

Hotels are the taxi cabs of yesteryear. When innovation and competition begin to threaten an industry, they resort to name calling and political protectionism. I see it year after year in Tallahassee. Last year it was Uber and Lyft versus taxi cabs and now it’s the national and state hotel lobby declaring war on vacation rentals.


State Sen. Greg Steube represents Senate District 23, which covers parts of Sarasota and Charlotte counties.

Eric Mitchell: The right side of medical cannabis

Patients throughout the country are discovering alternative and compassionate ways to treat their chronic illnesses as states continue to open up laws for various kinds of medical cannabis. This is a remarkable opportunity for many individuals whose ailments have made day-to-day living an enormous challenge.

As a practicing physician specializing in pain management, I can guarantee that this is exactly what this medicine does. It greatly improves the lives of suffering patients with disabling diseases and provides individuals with the possibility to once again live healthy and productive lives.

For the past five years, I have validated that the standard and traditional medications have not been effective in controlling, stabilizing or rendering relief from chronic maladies. Also, in the past five years, through a state-approved alternative medical program, I have been able to grant patients a certificate, allowing them to use medical cannabis. In doing so, I have witnessed a marked reduction in the use of antidepressants, narcotics and other medicines that carry unfavorable side effects and possible addiction.

As the medical cannabis industry continues to make strides in revolutionizing health care, its impact has stretched far beyond its alternative designation given as a medicine.

For instance, states in the U.S. with legalized medical cannabis programs have lowered the usage of opioids in their region. Each year, these states have seen a 25 percent decrease in opioid overdose mortality rates compared against states that do not have medical cannabis laws.

This success is only possible because of the medical cannabis companies that continue to get it right. These are the companies that take a thoughtful approach to cannabis, making a difference in the lives of their patients and in the communities they serve. They bring in the highest caliber of medical professionals, scientists and compassionate caregivers, generating vigorously patient-centric programs and providing top-quality pharmaceuticals.

To be clear, these companies couldn’t be farther from the “pot shop” misperception currently plaguing the industry. The medical cannabis field is thriving because of companies with evident professionalism and a strong commitment to improving patient care – not because of those stigmatizing shops that disparage the industry’s great efforts.

AGRiMED Industries, where I currently serve as medical director, is a fully-integrated, minority-owned company and an exemplary model of today’s true medical cannabis industry.

By using state-of-the-art greenhouse facilities, AGRiMED produces consistent, high-quality medicine for patients. Our organization is led by a diverse team of business and medical professionals who are committed to improving the health and wellness of patients who can benefit from the positive scientific effects of cannabis-derived medicines. AGRiMED is also so much more.

The focus of AGRiMED’s leadership extends past medicine into the communities we serve. With a special interest in motivating and educating younger generations to achieve success, we have made it a company goal to build relationships with colleges, universities and medical centers so we can provide training and internships to students for early experience in the industry. We have done this with Lincoln University, a historically black institution, and intend to do the same with others, such as Bethune Cookman University.

After being recognized for its state-of-the-art greenhouse facilities, diverse leadership team and community involvement, our organization was scored the top medical cannabis company in Pennsylvania. This unique blend of quality production and skill is how we secured one of just 12 licenses issued for the entire the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania last year, and it is how we continue to remain at the forefront of the medical cannabis industry – an accomplishment we hope to bring to many other states.

Our success in Pennsylvania is just one example of how the medical cannabis industry can move mountains. With the ongoing commitment of companies like AGRiMED, medical cannabis will continue to improve the health and wellness of ailing patients who can benefit from this age-old plant’s positive effects.


Eric Ignatius Mitchell, M.D., MA, FACPE, CPE, is the current Medical Director for AGRiMED Industries, LLC. He is a practicing orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine doctor specializing in pain management from a telecommunication platform globally.


Joe Henderson: Rays moving to Tampa? Not so fast


Um, not so fast.

I was getting ready for dinner Tuesday when WFLA, Channel 8, opened its 6 p.m. newscast with what seemed like a blockbuster.

The station was reporting that the Tampa Bay Rays had settled on a site near Tampa’s Ybor City for a proposed new stadium. On air and through social media, the anchors breathlessly hyped a story from reporter Jeff Patterson that made it sound like it was done deal – and a major scoop.

There is one major problem: The story didn’t say that.

The Rays haven’t settled on anything.

The story also wasn’t the earth-shaking scoop WFLA’s social media machine made it out to be. Back on Aug. 21, more than two months ago, the Tampa Bay Times first reported that Hillsborough County was “focusing” on the Ybor site and was trying to consolidate enough land to make building a stadium feasible.

The Times reported then that the county hoped to “make an announcement soon.”

Well, that announcement came Tuesday. It’s a big deal, but it’s just another incremental step in a process that is a long way from being over.

Rays President Brian Auld sought to douse the flames with a statement that called it “another important step in the site selection process.” He said the Rays would evaluate it, along with a proposal from Pinellas County.

In my estimate from having extensively covered the build-up to Raymond James Stadium and Amalie Arena, we are a minimum of four years – and likely longer – from seeing the first pitch in a new ballpark.

Assembling the land is important, but the Rays have to analyze that and other proposals to make sure their new home is in the right place. Then comes the fun part – figuring out how to pay for it. That alone will likely take a year or more, especially when it gets down to haggling over how much the Rays and Major League Baseball will pay.

Like most everyone else, I assume the Rays will choose to be in Tampa – likely at the Ybor site. But they haven’t done that yet and there a million hurdles they have to clear before it becomes a real thing.

WFLA ought to be embarrassed by its over-reaction. It turned a solid, informative update by Patterson into something that was confusing, misleading, and over-hyped. I think we all know why.

Social media doesn’t thrive on accuracy. It thrives on clicks, and shouting “RAYS SETTLE ON TAMPA” is major clickbait. The problem is, when that is proved to be wildly premature, it drains the credibility of a news operation.

It’s not uncommon for news outlets to have a social media editor – I don’t know if that’s the case at WFLA – whose job it is to hype stories. Assuming the Rays eventually do settle on Tampa, I suppose WFLA will fall all over itself saying had it had the “scoop” – even though, oh, whatever.

I went on one of their Facebook threads and it had already lit up with comments shortly after the “news” broke.

I tried to offer a clarification (using the information in their own story). I looked for that comment this morning, but it wasn’t there.

I assume it was deleted.

After all, can’t let facts get in the way of clickbait, can we?

Darryl Paulson: So much for presidential gravitas

Once again, President Donald Trump has taken what should be a solemn occasion and turned it into political theater. Unfortunately for Trump, he won’t win any Academy Awards for his performance.

On October 4, Sgt. La David Johnson and three other Green Berets were ambushed and killed in Niger. Only a dozen years ago, my daughter Rebecca served 27 months as a Peace Corp volunteer in Niger. Shortly after she left, the Peace Corps shut down its operations in Niger due to increased terrorist activity.

For almost a week after the deaths, President Trump made no mention of the tragedy in Niger. When asked about the incident at a press conference, Trump said that, unlike prior presidents, he calls the families of all fallen soldiers.

In fact, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, were upset by Trump’s statement. In addition, it turned out that Trump had not yet called the families of the four Green Berets.

Sgt. Johnson, from Miami, had previously participated in the 5000 Role Models program for at-risk boys established by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who represents the 24th congressional district in Miami. That was the start of a long-term relationship between Sgt. Johnson, his wife and Wilson.

That was why Wilson was riding in the car with Mrs. Myeshia Johnson on the way to pick up her husband’s body when Trump finally called Mrs. Johnson.

Mrs. Johnson asked the military escort to put the call on speakerphone so other relatives could here what the president had to say. Wilson was not eavesdropping on the call as General John Kelly, chief of staff, alleged.

According to Mrs Johnson and Wilson, the president did not seem to know Sgt. Johnson’s first name and he told Mrs. Johnson that he “knew what he signed up for. . . “

President Trump accused, via Twitter, Wilson of totally fabricating “what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” Trump later tweeted that Wilson was “wacky” and contended that she is “killing her party.”

Kelly compounded the problem when he alleged that Wilson claimed she was instrumental in getting funding for a new FBI building in Miami instead of focusing on the two slain agents for whom it was named. A videotape of her speech showed that Kelly’s comments were inaccurate.

Wilson has represented Florida’s 23rd Congressional District since 2010. She previously served in the Florida House (1998-2002) and Senate (2002-2010).

Wilson is best known for having a large collection of colorful hats which she wears every day. Press secretary Sarah Sanders alluded to Wilson’s hats when she accused Wilson of being “all hat and no cattle.”

Further complicating the issue was a statement made Sanders, who criticized reporters for attacking Kelly. “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star general, I think that’s highly inappropriate.” Since when did generals get immunity for what they say?

I see three apologies that need to be made. Trump needs to apologize to Mrs. Johnson, even if it is merely to say his statements were misconstrued and he honors the sacrifice of her husband.

Kelly should apologize to Wilson because his accusations cannot be substantiated by the evidence.

Finally, Sanders should apologize to the media for telling them to not be critical of a four-star general.

Since Trump is on record as saying he has never asked for forgiveness in prayer, one cannot expect him to ever apologize. Kelly and Sanders still have a chance to correct the record and make amends. I hope they do.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Bob Sparks: Only one hero in Donald Trump vs. Frederica Wilson fiasco

A sad spectacle playing out now will hopefully fade from the spotlight of cameras and the front pages of print media. It can’t happen soon enough.

Somehow, the return of a soldier killed in action across the ocean became a political sideshow starring President Donald Trump, retired General John F. Kelly, and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens.

By now, most know the story that Trump telephoned the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, killed during an ambush in Niger, to hopefully offer some words of comfort. We also know the widow, Myeshia Johnson, did not take the president’s attempt to console very well.

Especially the part where Trump said “he knew what he signed up for, but it still hurts.” Johnson also said she did not like his tone and the president could not remember her husband’s name.

The following day, Kelly, the president’s chief of staff, came out to the White House briefing room. As he detailed how a fallen military member is removed from the battlefield and eventually arrives home, one could have literally heard the proverbial pin drop.

Kelly then went on to express his dismay at how the solemn, somber process of honoring a fallen soldier had become politicized. He proceeded to disparage Wilson, without mentioning her by name, and misstated her role at a South Florida building dedication in 2015.

Heroes are hard to find in this story.

Trump was already behind the 8-ball before the call to Myeshia Johnson ever took place. When asked about his plans, Trump claimed past presidents did not make the calls he would soon make.

What purpose did it serve to say that?

It gave him no capital to defend the controversial remark about “he knew what he signed up for.” The president was advised to say something like that from Kelly, who received that very message when he lost his son in Afghanistan.

Trump may have had difficulty with his tone, as Johnson said, but the message is accurate. Adding, “but it still hurts” was supposed to help, but obviously it did not.

Who is old enough to remember Viet Nam when widows and families lost loved ones who had no choice but to serve in the Army, cross an ocean, and lay their lives on the line? They didn’t sign up for anything.

Kelly was on his way to restoring the meaning and the reverence of a returning fallen hero. That all came unglued when he accused Wilson of saying something she didn’t say.

What purpose did it serve to say that?

Wilson is demanding an apology from Kelly. For the factually wrong remarks attributed to the Congresswoman, she should get one.

At the same time, Wilson owes one, too. Not to Kelly, and certainly not to Trump, but to all who wish to keep the homecomings, the sharing of grief, and the remembrance of our returning heroes as one of the few moments where Americans can come together.

The reason we know about the phone call is because the Congresswoman publicly talked about it. That should not have happened and she is fortunate to not be sharing any of the blame for the spectacle.

Neither the president (and Twitter), nor Kelly, comes out of this unscathed. Wilson, who is famous for her hats, should have kept what she heard under it.

Which brings us full circle.

As it was on the day all of this became media fodder, the only hero in this story is Sgt. La David Johnson.


Joe Henderson: Death threats at UF? Either way, coach mishandled situation

University of Florida football coach Jim McElwain has mishandled a potentially explosive situation, and that’s true whether or not death threats were actually directed at him and those in his program.

Something isn’t adding up here.

At his regular news conference Monday, McElwain dropped a bombshell about that subject in an almost offhand way. After being asked if his staff was “hanging in there” during a tough season for the Gators, he responded with this jaw-dropping revelation:

“There’s a lot of hate in this world. A lot of anger, and yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when the threats are against your own players. Death threats to your families …”

Say again? Death threats?

McElwain nodded affirmatively.

But McElwain hadn’t told the university about this beforehand, and apparently not much after the news broke, either. That prompted this rather cryptic statement from the UF Athletics Association:

“The University Athletic Association takes the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and families very seriously. Our administration met with Coach McElwain this afternoon, and he offered no additional details.”

Excuse me?

Repeat: he offered no additional details.

That led to speculation that McElwain was exaggerating the situation, but we don’t know that. Here’s what we do know, though.

If there were actual threats against him or anyone else associated with the program, common sense says his first call should have been to his boss, the athletic director, who would alert law enforcement for a thorough investigation.

It appears obvious from the university’s statement that such a call was never made. If I’m the parent of a Gator football player, I would be screaming for an explanation. McElwain should be held accountable.

But it turns out that no such threat was ever made, then McElwain should face severe discipline for basically scaring the bejeebers out of everyone associated with the University of Florida.

It’s not a stretch to say such a threat could have happened. We know the passion for college football in this state, and sometimes that gets out of hand. That played out last Saturday in Tallahassee, when Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher got into a confrontation with a fan while leaving the field following a tough loss to Louisville.

Given everything in play about the disappointing season at Florida, I absolutely believe it’s possible that McElwain received such a threat from an unhinged Gator fan. You don’t blow those things off.

Whether he did or didn’t is not the biggest issue now, though. McElwain’s clumsy handling of this situation has become the story.

Nothing less than full transparency from him and the university on what happened, or didn’t happen, will do. If there are additional details, everyone needs to hear them.

Joe Henderson: Frederica Wilson’s record not so wacky

President Donald Trump called U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida’s 24th Congressional District “wacky” in a tweet. He said she is the “gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party.” He said she is a “disaster” for Democrats.

Let’s meet her.

She won her seat in 2010, and in 2014 was re-elected to a third term with 86 percent of the vote. Republicans didn’t bother to put a challenger in 2016. Before that, she was a teacher, principal and school board member in Miami-Dade. She has a reputation for fierce devotion to her district.

She served in both the Florida House and Senate before heading to Congress. In Tallahassee, she was elected Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore and Minority Whip.

She worked with then-Gov. Jeb Bush to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol. She established the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program to secure college scholarships for young at-risk men.

“I worked with her in Tallahassee. She is a very nice lady, a caring person,” former longtime Republican legislator Mike Fasano said. “She has done a remarkable job with the role model program.  It has been very successful.”

Her district has endured more than its share of gun violence and death, leading her to become outspoken on the subject. Speaking at a breakfast to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Miami Herald reported she said, “That is what Dr. King would want us to do, take back the community from the hooligans. Only 7 percent of people in the inner city are prone to violence. The other 93 percent are tired of it.”

She has a reputation of giving comfort to military families in her district. That’s why, when the president called, she was in a limousine with the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson after he was killed in an ambush with three other soldiers in Niger.

What started off as a condolence call became a national controversy when Wilson overheard him say on speaker phone that Johnson “knew what he signed up” when he joined the military.

Wilson called him out, Trump started tweeting that she made up the story, and Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly likened Wilson to a noisy “empty barrel.” Kelly pressed the attack, saying that at the dedication for an FBI field office in Miami, she patted herself on the back for securing $20 million in funding for the project.

Let’s go to the videotape.

Upon further review, video taken at the dedication showed she never said such a thing, leading the Miami Herald to say in an editorial that Kelly owed her a “sincere apology.”

It all came to a head when the fallen soldier’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, told Good Morning America that Wilson’s version of events is “100 percent correct.”

This story likely would have had a short news cycle had the president simply chosen to say his only wish was to comfort a grieving widow — and then drop it.

Alas, that’s not how it works with this president because, like a bully, he would rather push a bad position and resort to name-calling than admit he was wrong.

That’s especially true when it comes to attacking Gold Star families. No one has forgotten how then-candidate Trump took after Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son died while serving in Iraq.

Maybe that “gift keeps on giving” to the fevered base that cheers louder the more obnoxious he behaves, but it’s unbecoming to the office and disrespectful to both the fallen and a congresswoman who rightly called him out.

So, who’s really “wacky” here?

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