Is Bob Graham Calling the Shots on the Times’ Targeting of Andrew Gillum?



By Jim Bleyer


The relentless inaccuracies from the Tampa Bay Times regarding Andrew Gillum has gone so far over the top that local political observers are suggesting that former U.S. Senator Bob Graham’s is behind the paper’s defamatory, insulting, and racist reporting and headlines.

All the signs are there.

As a board member of the Poynter Foundation, parent of the Times, Graham has the wherewithal; to bend the Times to his will.  As the father of Gwen Graham, one of Gillum’s Democratic primary opponents for governor, Graham has the incentive to make such a call.

The Times has made themselves pliable to outside political interference due to its financial plight and temporary bailout by right wingers.

The most recent flagrant example was a woeful smear yesterday morning about Gillum’s remarks on gun control to supporters Tuesday in St. Petersburg.   The hatchet job was accompanied by this photo which was captionless when initially published.

The caption was inserted only after a commenter remarked that the photo appeared out of context.  This was the cutline—accurate—finally inserted into the Times story:

”Andrew Gillum signs a memorial to the victims of gun violence at St. Petersburg’s Allendale United Methodist Church Tuesday, March 13.“

Speaking to supporters, Gillum advocated challenging the Florida Legislature’s attack on home rule.  The State of Florida has made it illegal for local jurisdictions to pass gun control ordinances.  Any local official participating in such an action is personally liable and may be removed from office.

The National Rifle Association with 5 million members is running roughshod over the rest of the population, some 300+ million, Gillum noted.

“We can’t have guns where our children play and families picnic,” the mayor went on. “ Teachers are inspiring and important but the state wants to make them security guards.”

Terming the fight against the gun lobby a long-term battle, Gillum said Florida’s new gun law is “one step forward and one step back.”

All that was lost on the Times cub, Kirby Wilson, who attended the event but apparently not as a journalist.  The headline writer, with marching orders from Graham/Poynter, wrote this over the story:  “Andrew Gillum in St. Petersburg: Localities should consider passing illegal gun ordinances.”

Those in attendance that actually listened to Gillum’s words and enthusiastically supported them would be shocked to know they were encuraging lawbreaking per the Times.

In reality, Gillum has been taken to court by the National Rifle Association twice and prevailed.  Passing a local ordinance to challenge preemption, which Gillum said municipalities and counties should consider, would test the constitutionality of the state law.

In reacting to the Times’ fictionalized version of events, the Gillum campaign noted:

—The gun lobby & NRA want the public and press to believe their loss was insignificant. As the Mayor said yesterday: “If it was insignificant to the NRA, they would not have joined in (on the lawsuit).  They like to purport since they lost that it was an insignificant fight. If it was insignificant, why did they engage in the fight in the first place?”

—The NRA officially filed an amicus brief, with its lobbyist Marion Hammer penning an op-ed denouncing Mayor Gillum.  The NRA’s full-throated support was noted in the Orlando Sentinel, Florida Politics, and WTXL: “NRA joins lawsuit as city leaders fight for ability to set gun ordinances.”

—The City of Tallahassee’s fight against the gun lobby brought preemption into the open, and showed that the gun lobby and NRA can be beaten.  Mayor Gillum is supportive of mayors and local elected officials around the state challenging this law to keep their communities safe.

The campaign also noted, “as anyone who has covered Florida politics knows, Hammer and the NRA’s word is more powerful than just about any interest group in the state — and Mayor Gillum never backed down.”

Challenging the constiutionality of debatable laws has been done hundreds of thousands of times across the country, Welcome to America, Bob Graham….and the Times.

Tampa Bay Beat previously published an article about the Times use of racist imagery to depict the Gillum campaign.

Bob Graham is very involved in his daughter’s campaign, strongarming former Senate colleague Howard Dean into an endorsement of Gwen and “her progressive values.”  This fantasy spewed from a washed up public servant with nothing to lose.  Laughable.

Many Democratic voters were saying they liked Bob Graham but won’t buy into Gwen and her rightist views.  If the paper’s coverage continues down its muck-laden path, both Grahams will share a tarnished legacy only surpassed by the Times itself.

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