By Jim Bleyer
The Tampa Bay Times won’t let go of Kevin King.
Apparently still stung by backing the ill-fated Rick Baker in last year’s City of St. Petersburg mayoral race, the Times still publishes unproven, insane sexual harassment accusations against Mayor Kriseman’s chief of staff. Never mind that the source is a shrill, ragtag band of residents with sharpened axes.
With no substantive evidence against King, the Times on July 22 named him and Kriseman as their political “Loser of the Week,” only because it cranks out pure adversarial garbage for the gullible and uninformed.
Meanwhile, the Times harbors a known sexual predator, Barry Edwards, in its parent Poynter Institute. The Times in its news and editorial pages for months also protected disgraced former State Sen. Jack Latvala, accused of sexual harassment by at least six staffers who work in the Capitol.
While a professor at FSU twenty years ago, Edwards was a serial predator, unlawfully and immorally preying on multiple students under his supervision for sex and favors.
The 251-page police investigative report contains written statements by a dozen people alleging various improprieties by Edwards. It also contains allegations by the Boy Scouts of America national headquarters, allegations which led them to revoke his membership when Edwards was 32 years old. This information suggests a pattern of predation, not just a single incident of bad judgment.
The documented behavior of Edwards by law enforcement authorities in Tallahassee comprises real evidence, not the rumor and innuendo the Times publishes about Kevin King.
Speaking of rumor and innuendo, Peter Schorsch, owner of a pay-to-play blog based in St. Petersburg, is mentioned on page 166 of the Edwards report. Schorsch was not included in the sexual angle of the report; he was described by a faculty member as having difficulty completing and turning in assignments.
Ironically, Schorsch and Edwards wound up plying their trade in the same city.
In addition to his sex-for-favors problems, Edwards also sold a stolen FSU laptop to a friend. Other computer equipment stolen from the student union was found in his apartment, and there were allegations that he also dealt in equipment stolen from the Florida House and Senate. Edwards was arrested a second time on these charges.
Latvala of Clearwater was projected as the Times 2018 gubernatorial stooge on the Republican side. The paper, in its “news” pages, is backing Gwen Graham in the Democratic primary. Her father sits on the Poynter Foundation board.
Though a Florida Senate investigation brought no criminal charges against Latvala, he in all probability will have to answer for his behavior in civil court. Tampa Bay Beat wrote about Latvala’s sexual misadventures dating from when he worked as a political functionary decades ago in Tallahassee.
The Times, ignoring the victims of Latvala’s predation, dubbed him as their political “Winner of the Week” yesterday for getting off the hook on criminal charges. An ethical, dispassionate journalistic entity would have instead named Latvala’s multiple victims as “Loser of the Week.”
So when the predator is not one of their own, publisher Paul Tash and the editorial writers turn a blind eye to sexual transgressions.
This also extends to two other members of the Tampa Bay community favored by the Times. Normally if a private citizen cheats on a spouse using a superior position as leverage for sex, it’s not a public matter. But in the case of a high profile City of Tampa politician and a well-known Tampa businessperson who became part owner of the Times, their dalliances have cost the public millions of dollars in bloated contracts and atrocious hires.
Hillsborough County and City of Tampa taxpayers were secondary victims—paying the protegées of these influencers without knowledge because the Times was busy protecting the two predators.
Charges and detailed 251-page transcripts are damning; rumors are hurtful, counterproductive, and destroy the credibility of the purveyor. The Times needs to grasp a shred of decency and desist from defaming public employees to advance its agenda. For ethical media entities, that policy is pro forma; for the Times and Tash it’s pushing the envelope to act with a modicum of decency.