Florida Media Treats Crist, Scott Aides’ Scandals Differently

Adam Hollingsworth. Photo credit: Jacksonville.com.

The Florida media revealed a political double standard this week by treating Republican Gov. Rick Scott much more harshly than former Democratic Gov. Charlie Crist regarding scandals involving top advisers.

The Florida media went into a feeding frenzy this week after learning Scott’s top political adviser appeared to mislead his private sector employer a decade ago regarding his college education. CSX Corp., which employed Scott’s chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth early last decade, twice issued press releases during Hollingsworth’s employment claiming Hollingsworth had a college degree from the University of Alabama. As it turns out, Hollingsworth attended the University of Alabama during the years he claimed, but did not complete his degree until 2009.

In a 2011 application to serve on the board of Enterprise Florida, Corp., a public-private economic development agency, Hollingsworth listed his education as “University of Alabama, 1986-1990, BA, Communications.”

When Hollingsworth in 2012 applied for his current chief of staff position, he correctly provided 2009 as the date he received his degree.

Reporting this week on Hollingsworth’s resume revelations, the Florida media consistently attempted to make Scott a central figure regarding the issue.

For example, Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo wrote an article titled, “Hollingsworth’s lie about PR degree bad spin for Gov. Rick Scott.” In the article, Caputo repeatedly emphasized Hollingsworth’s advisory capacity in the Scott administration and published two paragraphs of quotes from Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant criticizing Scott over the issue.

The Florida media’s attempts to create a scandal for Scott sharply contrast with the Florida media burying Crist’s more intimate personal and political relationship with Jim Greer, who is serving time in federal prison on five counts of theft and money laundering. In 2006, Crist appointed his longtime personal friend and close political ally Greer to chair the Republican Party of Florida. Greer then stole over $100,000 from Republican Party funds. Crist admitted under oath that he may have directed Greer to leak information about U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s personal finances to the press, which personal information Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to turn into a scandal.

Details of Greer’s criminal misconduct emerged only after Crist left the Republican Party. In their coverage of Greer’s crimes, the Florida media rarely mentioned that Crist appointed Greer, based on their longtime personal friendship, to the position that Greer utilized to steal other people’s money. Instead, the media consistently identified Greer merely as the former chair of the Republican Party, giving viewers the impression that the Republican Party, rather than the now-Democratic gubernatorial candidate, enabled and empowered Greer.

The Tallahassee Democrat, for example, published an article titled, “Former Florida GOP chair gets 1 ½ years.” The article never mentioned Greer’s close personal connection with Crist or their longstanding personal ties. Instead, the article falsely claimed that a scheduled trial “threatened to expose the underbelly” of the Florida Republican Party, rather than the underbelly of Crist’s political misconduct.

A similar article published by the Tampa Bay Times mentioned Greer’s connection to Crist, but readers had to read down to the ninth paragraph in the article to find it. Before mentioning Greer’s connection to Crist, the Times misleadingly asserted, “The sentencing at the Orange County Courthouse marked at least the legal conclusion of a years-long saga that was unflattering for state Republicans, but could’ve been worse.”

The Times published a separate editorial claiming Greer’s sentencing “recognizes that Greer was far from the only prominent Republican behaving badly.” The editorial did not mention Crist at all.

Comparing Hollingsworth and Greer, Greer’s conduct was substantially worse and merited federal prison time. Greer’s misconduct, unlike Hollingsworth’s, occurred while he held political power. Greer had a much longer, closer personal relationship with Crist than Hollingsworth has with Scott. And Greer appear to have engaged in at least some of his misconduct at the express direction of Crist. Nevertheless, the Florida media are attempting to turn Hollingsworth’s conduct into a scandal for Scott after sweeping under the rug Crist’s more direct connection to Greer’s criminal misconduct.