Sen. Bennett Threatens Sunshine State News Reporter

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Sen. Mike Bennett caught viewing a pornographic image during session. Claims it was an unexpected email from trusted source

I didn't expect Sen Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, to like the fact that I reported on what I saw in plain view on the Senate floor last Thursday.

But within about an hour after publishing my story about the pornographic image we caught with our cameras on his computer, I got a threatening phone call from the senator blasting me for publishing his story.

"What kind of man are you?" he asked, then ascribed other attributes to my character such as "pathetic" and "voyeuristic".

"What kind of man sneaks over people's shoulders like that?" Bennett questioned.

I'd like to remind readers that Sen. Mike Bennett was viewing the image on the Senate floor during session -- while I was in the standard place for reporters during session, which is one floor above in the reporters' gallery.

Bennett says he had just opened the email and closed it as soon as he realized what it was. That fact was reported in the original story. He also said in the phone call that he left the computer on his desk in Tallahassee for us to see, but Sunshine State News had already been denied access to view the files that he accessed while using the computer.

After a few more personal insults, the Bradenton senator made a vow.

"I will do everything in my power, everything -- I don't know what that is exactly -- but I will do everything I can to make sure your days at the Capitol and reporting are over," Bennett said.

In case you missed it, here's the full story

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Comments (15)

4:07AM NOV 2ND 2011
I feel fervently about this and FM TRANSMITTER I like learning about this subject.I have found it really useful.
4:32AM MAY 10TH 2010

.. You're not going to lose your job. Don't worry.
3:42PM MAY 6TH 2010
I like how the senator tries to turn it around and make the reporter out to be the bad guy.
Avenging Angel
4:01PM MAY 5TH 2010
Exactly what you would expect from a "legislator". Threats to ruin your life and take away your living.

Get this piece of excrement Bennett out of the state house RIGHT NOW!!!!!
Anna V.
3:47PM MAY 5TH 2010
Thank you so much for not backing down when he threatened you. I am tired of senators and other elected public officials not doing their job and then hiding under a PR statement. This has nothing to do with what he was viewing, he could have been looking at The Colbert Report for all I care. It's the fact that this was an important meeting and he is representing people and failing to do that.
If a person was playing tetris or watching music videos on their computer while they were supposed to be working at any company, they would be reprimanded at the least. But he thinks he gets some sort of pass because he is only working for the people?
People are focusing too much on the fact that the picture contained nudity and not enough on the fact he is wasting your tax dollars, your votes, and potentially your state funding/resources/rights.
2:09PM MAY 4TH 2010
The Senator was wrong to threaten you Mr. Wright and I hope he sincerely apologizes for it. Otherwise, I don't think he should be accused of looking at pornography if it was sent to him in an e-mail without his knowledge. (No matter how long he looked at it.) It could happen to anyone. Look, I just unintentionally viewed pornography on a business site. After all, I don't think it's my imagination that I can see the shorter woman's breast, is it?

Anyway, I'll bet there aren't too many men and only a few less women that wouldn't have focused in on a picture like that before clicking it off.
10:44AM MAY 4TH 2010
This guy's a saint compared to Gov. Sanford. Did he resign yet?
9:28AM MAY 4TH 2010
Ha, anything done on the Senate floor is fair game for reporting buddy!

Viewing it right as the speaker says 'disrespecting women'...too rich...
8:49PM MAY 3RD 2010
Not for one bit do I like the fact that one of our state senators is looking at naked images during a very important debate. I find it just as disingenuous if he opened his email, not knowing what it was. First, stay off your personal email while on the clock doing state business. Second, don't threaten a reporter who DOING HIS JOB by filming a critical debate. Senator -- you should apologize to your constituents!
9:44AM MAY 4TH 2010
What nudity? What pornography? As much as I detest repugnacans I have to say I don't see anything wrong with the picture. The reporter and editors should apologize for this.
FL Indepdent
8:30PM MAY 3RD 2010
The idea that this is "pornographic" is outlandish. Looks like a Florida post card found at any tourist shop. If you think that a woman's breast is "pornographic" then perhaps you should leave journalism and start working to ban breast feeding in public. I believe the Senator has every right to be frustrated with your "reporting".
Ken Mertes
10:17AM MAY 4TH 2010
Not a very good defence unless you are sure half clothed women would be permitted on the Senate floor.
James Robertson
5:41AM MAY 5TH 2010
Although you have a point, it is irrelevant here. This form of 'journalism' is indeed, as the senator states, plain pathetic. First of all, using the term porn for a picture of women in bikini, while then still adding the black bar (as if there is anything to hide), is mere sensationalism for attracting as many readers/viewers as possible for what can at best be described as a non-event.
12:43PM MAY 5TH 2010
Have you already lost sight of the actual problem presented by this story? Numerous comments above indicate that this is "simply not pornography" and claim that the story is an example of bad journalism.

This gentleman is representing countless conservative constituents, a group among which abortion law is considered a critical point of debate. Yet, instead of actually participating in the debate he is visiting random locations on the web; we see a dog playing on the beach soon followed by what is obviously a photograph containing nudity. As a former employee of the State of Florida, I can guarantee you that browsing this sort of material while at work would not be looked upon highly; because of the nature of the image, it could even result in termination.

The expectations for a Senator should be even higher. For all of you out there defending this behavior... give yourself a reality check. For those of you going so far as to support the Senator's response to the journalist, shame on you. This is a conservative Senator elected by individuals that are highly sensitive to the abortion debate. What an obvious example of disrespect for your constituents and, how surprising, another log thrown on the fire of Republican hypocrisy.
11:46PM MAY 6TH 2010
exactly DH. even if he was looking at cute little kittens it means he was basically jacking off mentally when he should have been focused on a very serious and highly important debate.

the nature of what the senator was viewing at the time is sensational, but only because it seems so hypocritical.

To sum up, main story = senator [filtered word] around when he is on the clock. sensationalism = by [filtered word] around we mean looking at naked pictures of women (again, when he is on the clock) during a debate on abortion (which always comes down to respecting women/life).

i honestly hope our work ethic hasn't fallen so far as to find that acceptable.

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