Evaluating the Tampa Bay Times’ Liability


Hate Groups in Florida
(From Southern Poverty Law Center)

By Jim Bleyer

By promoting for material gain a predictable scenario involving confrontation and possible bloodshed, what responsibility does an organization have to victims and the community it allegedly serves?

A consensus of attorneys interviewed by Tampa Bay Beat says responsiblity certainly exists; proving it in a civil litigation would be daunting but doable.  There is a high quantity of dots but connecting them would not be that formidable.

Specifically, the financially struggling Tampa Bay Times accepted $12-15 million from “investors” heavily involved in the Republican party.  The paper, long known for its championing of progressive causes and candidates, suddenly pivoted 180 degrees from its historic philosophy.

This has included an overzealous embracing of St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker, a Republican and unrepentant Donald Trump apologist who only condemned hate groups several days after the murder of a protestor in Charlottesville.  Baker refuses to repudiate Trump, his racist views,  his totally misguided  “all sides are at fault” philosophy, and his  acceptance of support from and approval of white supremacists.

The Times has more than endorsed Baker; it has made his election its mission with editorial carpet bombing, the publishing of falsehoods and half truths, and strikingly slanted coverage in what are purported to be news pages.  Publisher Paul Tash, the $500,000+ a-year man, chose to grab a parachute from individuals with a personal interest in promoting Republicans and Republican causes.  He  obviously feels compelled to deliver a Baker victory in his first test after accepting the bailout.

News archives would supply the preponderance of evidence of the Times’ duplicity and its complete jettisoning of traditional journalistic responsibility.

Baker who served two terms as St. Petersburg mayor from 2001-2009, seems out of step with the explosion of diversity and progressive thought that has captured the city since his tenure.  He blatantly has eschewed the active and visible LGBT community, been the point man for a wealthy entrepreneur whose dealings have come under federal scrutiny, and won’t commit to retaining the city’s well-regarded African-American police chief.

It’s a local race with national implications. Only 28 mayors in the 100 largest cities are Republican with the trend favoring the Democrats.

There is no doubt that should Baker unseat incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman in the Nov. 7 general election, Republicans from Florida to Washington D.C. to Tulsa would crow, preen, and be beyond ecstatic.  Always quick to take credit and at the front of the line would be the inept, narcissistic Trump.

The President starves for favorable news on any front; Democrats are winning special elections in districts that gave him a pluralty.  Odds are bigly that Trump would schedule a high profile rally in St. Petersburg. He can’t resist. It’s in his DNA.

Trump rallies attract white supremacists and, egged on by their leader, have resulted in physical confrontation.  An outspoken, diverse and progressive populace in greater Tampa Bay guarantees groups of protestors would be on hand.

With 14 hate groups within an easy drive of St. Petersburg, a Trump appearance is ripe for confrontation.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center they include four KKK klaverns, three black separatist groups, two chapters of the white nationalist American Freedom Party, two chapters of the white nationalist Sons and Daughters of Liberty, one anti-Muslim group, and one neo-nazi organization.

The shooter firing at counterprotesters in Charlottesville was identified as a KKK Imperial Wizard.

The SPLC also classifies Bill Keller Ministries, based in St. Pete,  as a hate organization.  Keller has lashed out against Mormons, Muslims, and the LGBT community.

But that isn’t all of it.  Trump’s previous appearances and the hours leading up to them have attracted hate groups based hundreds of miles  from the venues where he has spoken.  Thousands would spill into St. Pete streets and speaking venues.

The trail of evidence that the Times is aware of the possible consequences of its self-serving political maneuvering begins with its coverage of the mayor’s race, the publishing of articles about confrontations at Trump and white supremacist rallies, and awareness of nearby militant groups with competing objectives.  Then there are the public utterances of publisher Tash and his desire to “connect” with Trump voters and the quid pro quo for an otherwise inexplicable GOP loan to an entity that hemorrhages cash.

This is not traditional journalism, normally an endorsement in the editorial pages and balanced news coverage.  It is a relentless tattoo of slanted and untrue news articles and a ceaseless barrage of editorials in the months that are leading up to the Nov. 7 mayoral election.

Any showdown in the streets might merely consist of shouting and name calling.  But it might be far worse—a much, much more plausible possibility than the Times’ recent front page hysterical hypothesis of a North Korean nuclear weapon exploding over Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base.

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