Make fun of Melissa Sellers all you want, but not for this…

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Like most everyone else in Florida politics, I read with interest the Tampa Bay Times‘ profile of Rick Scott’s Chief of Staff, Melissa Sellers. Because I have personally done almost as much research on Sellers as Times reporters Adam Smith and Steve Bousquet, there wasn’t much that they wrote that surprised me. In fact — and this is not to be my usual critical self — Smith and Bousquet go easier on Sellers than I would have expected.

The story reads as if Bousquet fears burning whatever remains of his bridge to the Office of the Governor:

“Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff is a 32-year-old practitioner of brass-knuckled politics who gets wide leeway. A Florida newcomer with limited knowledge of the state’s political culture and history, she managed the governor’s $100 million-plus re-election campaign and steered him out of a double-digit deficit in the polls.

“A devout Christian and onetime divinity student, she was so combative in the Louisiana governor’s office that the capital press corps spoofed her in its annual gridiron dinner as always suited up in football shoulder pads.

“As Scott stumbles through a disastrously rocky start to his second term, she is his fiercest advocate and perhaps his greatest liability.”

From what I’ve come to understand, Sellers was all but escorted to the state line of Louisiana and asked by everyone not named Bobby Jindal to not return to the sportsman’s paradise (just read this blog post about an incident involving Sellers and her attempt to sit in on an editorial board’s interview of Jindal).

Sellers portrait by Smith and Bousquet includes glowing quotes from smart-guy Darrick McGhee and Scott consultant Curt Anderson. No one who has any business before state government is willing to go on the record with their criticism of Sellers, although Marc Caputo of POLITICO wrote this morning in “Florida Playbook” that because the Times has strict limits on using anonymous sources, “many of the extremely critical things (some fair, many not) said about Seller and her style didn’t make print.”

Mentioned in S & B’s profile of Sellers is a 3-year-old video, in which she talks about her faith and describes having grown up in a “very tense” religion-free household with “explosions of violence and anger.”

The video was not posted on the Tampa Bay Times‘ website, but it started to make the rounds in Florida political circles Monday. It can be viewed here.

The clip has all the production value of a hostage video, but that doesn’t take away from the power of what Sellers has to say. For a very brief moment, she is extraordinarily honest about her worldview.

Unfortunately, Sellers is already being made fun of for being open about her faith.

Former Times reporter Lucy Morgan started a discussion on Facebook, linking to the video and while describing Sellers as the “acting Governor of Florida.” Jeff Klinkenberg, also formerly of the Tampa Bay Times, directly questions the veracity of Sellers’ faith.

“Like many right-wingers, she is Christian in name only,” Klinkenberg writes. “How does she practice her faith? Going to church and reading the Bible doesn’t cut it.”

This blog has been highly critical of Sellers. Our editorial cartoonist has likened her to an “invasive species.” But to disparage Sellers as bearing false testimony or by questioning her faith is completely out of line.

As terrible an act as it may be, pushing to have the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement replaced is not a mortal sin. Not responding to press inquiries is not a violation of one of the Ten Commandments.

Make fun of Melissa Sellers all you want. Question her fitness to serve in her current position. Investigate any possible wrongdoings she may have committed. But do not judge her devotion to Christ.

Just re-read what McGhee, an ordained minister, had to say.

“We share a love for Christ,” McGhee said. “We do a lot of praying and talking together.”

To quote good ol’ JC, , he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

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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