Patrick Murphy exaggeration storyline has been greatly exaggerated

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When it comes to the Patrick Murphy “OMG-he-exaggerated-his-resume” storyline, I am reminded of the story of the congressional aide who came storming into his boss’s office,

“Mr. Chairman! Mr. Chairman! They’re lyin’ about your record!”

“Calm down son. As long as they ain’t truthin’ about us.”

When it comes to “truthin’” about Patrick Murphy, it now seems the actual facts — as reviewed by PolitiFact — are far less sexy than the exaggerations.

Look, all is fair in love, war and politics; and politics and I did not just fall off the turnip truck last week (it was a few years ago.) Lies, liars and big fat lies are just another part of the game. The public wants them, the media loves them, and politicians lap them up.

But if the news outlets are going to run with a storyline about Patrick Murphy exaggerating his resume, then they should probably try and refrain from repeating exaggerations in their own stories.

“Honey, we don’t repeat gossip ‘round here. So listen up the first time.”

I’m not saying Patrick Murphy’s resume is without blemish. He could have done a better job of explaining aspects of his background. Is there a difference between a double major and a dual degree? I am sure someone in academia can explain that to me, but it’s not like he didn’t attend the school or didn’t actually have the double major.

It is entirely fair and well within bounds to give anyone’s resume a closer look, and we should do that. But what we should not do is take this exaggeration storyline and run with it before looking carefully at the facts. If you had seen the recent press coverage, you might think Murphy never owned a business, wasn’t a CPA at all, and never made it out of middle school. (OK, that last one was my own little exaggeration — but you get the point.)

There are details to sift through and some intricacies here for sure, but there are also basic facts, and we shouldn’t ignore them.

This week, PolitiFact did a deep dive on this issue and did a good job at separating fact from exaggeration — or lyin’ from truthin.’ Let’s take a look at the three main points of contention:

Small-business owner: Murphy had a leadership role and part ownership of Coastal Environmental Services, a small business. PolitiFact looked at the records and found Murphy listed as a Director, and IRS documents show Murphy was a shareholder. This can’t be disputed. To say “it is now clear that Murphy was not a small-business owner,” as the CBS Miami report and a Republican attack ad did just isn’t true. He is a small-business owner. Was he the SOLE owner?  No. Was he AN owner? Seems that he was. Yawn.

BP Oil Spill contracts: Murphy purchased a company called Crescent SR. The records PolitiFact looked at show Crescent had two subcontracts to clean up oil in the Gulf. Therefore, Murphy then owned Crescent SR as well as its two contracts to clean up oil in the Gulf. Murphy executed the terms of those contracts. Could Murphy have explained all of this? Sure. But would anyone have cared and does that distinction matter? Nope.

CPA license: Patrick Murphy is a CPA. That is an absolute fact. It is as much up for dispute as the fact that Murphy is a sitting member of Congress. He passed the test; he has a CPA license, and he worked at one of the biggest accounting firms in the country. Now, Murphy got his CPA license in Colorado, even though he was living in Florida. Not to get too into the weeds here, but while the CPA exam is the same in every state, the requirements for taking the exam are not, so Murphy took the exam in a state where he met the requirements. Was that an easy way into the CPA world?  Yes, it definitely was. But how you make the leap from Murphy doing CPA work in Florida with a valid license, to saying Murphy was never a CPA is a media slip of the tongue and a lazy retelling of someone else’s spin.

The attacks on Patrick Murphy’s career are many things, but cut-and-dry isn’t one of them. Murphy could have been clearer, and this is a U.S. Senate race, so it is fair for the media to press for clarity. But right now the media seems more motivated to be sensational than to be accurate.

Let’s find the balance, let’s give the voters the facts, and let’s move on.

And kudos for PolitiFact for spending the time to dig in and sift lyin’ from truthin’ — we should all take the lesson to heart.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog 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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