In the eyes of Jack Latvala, recent accusations of rampant sexual harassment in the Florida Senate are becoming more like a witch hunt than real news.
On Thursday, the Senate budget chief offered a sharp retort to POLITICO Florida reporter Alexandra Glorioso over the suggestions he acted improperly with a female lobbyist, despite an affidavit saying that nothing happened.
Earlier in the day, during the annual pre-session planning day at the Capitol hosted by The Associated Press, Latvala bristled when the reporter asked about an incident caught on camera of the Clearwater Republican kissing a female lobbyist.
“I waived my right to confidentiality with regard to my record. And I asked the general counsel to call down there and find out if I had any problems with this,” Latvala said during an exchange POLITICO described as “combative.”
“I never had any incident with that. … When do we go from reporting the news to making the news?”
Latvala then walked away, saying: “You can take that as I’m not talking to you.”
One of the reasons Latvala is unwilling to talk to Glorioso and POLITICO Florida is that the political website seems determined to dig up something on the Pinellas Republican.
According to text messages obtained by Florida Politics, Glorioso had recently interviewed past staffers of Latvala’s, asking them if they had been harassed or witnesses harassment.
In one message, a former staffer (whom Glorioso contacted because she had heard that Latvala and her had a “falling out”) told the POLITICO reporter that she was barking up the wrong tree.
The staffer said she and Latvala have been in touch and have a good relationship; in fact, in more than four years of working in Latvala’s office, she never heard or saw anything inappropriate.
Glorioso’s interrogation of his former aides did not sit well with Latvala.
“I conveyed to Ms. Glorioso today that I believe she is gone from reporting the news to trying to make the news,” Latvala remarked to Florida Politics. “Fake news at that!”
During AP Day, Latvala, a Republican candidate for governor, blasted opponents for hiring private investigators who, in the course of opposition research, took a photo of him kissing the lobbyist.
He called it “an organized effort to tear down the Senate.”