For media training, Mom’s the word

Dannette Henry
Dannette Henry

Too many public officials feel entitled to cut to the front of every line. This week, one of them had the misfortune of being caught on tape saying so.

Daytona Beach City Commissioner Dannette Henry was close enough to see the shooting and beating of a young man as it was unfolding in her neighborhood last Wednesday. “They need to come to my damn house,” she yelled at the dispatcher on the receiving end of her 911 call. “Oh my God, I got to call the chief because you all take too long.”

Danette Henry had every right to be hysterical. Her own children were with her as she witnessed a young man being chased down, shot at and beaten. Cursing, however, is optional in a crisis, and Dannette Henry did a lot of it as the police dispatcher worked calmly to gain the information needed to render aid.

Also working calmly was the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s crime reporter Lyda Longa, who logged overtime dragging basic, always-public police blotter information out of Interim Police Chief Craig Capri.

Derrick Henry

Longa’s initial public records request came back with a report that was unreadable and illegally redacted, perhaps because of the Henry family’s prominence in local politics. Danette Henry’s brother Derrick Henry was just re-elected Mayor. The beating victim turns out to be their nephew Patrick Henry, whose father, also named Patrick Henry, was sworn in this week to the state House of Representatives.

Longa persisted, and the complete report was released Friday. In due course, the full crime story will be told, whether the Henrys like it or not.

At the moment, it appears they do not. Commissioner Henry is incommunicado, and so is her brother, the State Representative, who apparently learned nothing from the “media training” provided to freshman lawmakers at taxpayer expense. Rep. Henry hung up the telephone on a reporter Thursday afternoon, and hasn’t been heard from since.

His son, however, was feeling well enough to “peek out from a side door of the house and yell two expletives at reporters” who were talking to his mother, Cheryl White, in the driveway.

White, holds no office, but she appears to be, by far, the best media wrangler and public relations person in the family. As her son began to spew, she promptly instructed him, “That’s enough young man.”

Florence Snyder

Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant.


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