Gotta Shout It, Sen. Bennett: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
Around the State
Along comes Sen. Mike Bennett, another political egomaniac who believes he's above scrutiny or honesty or answering for bad behavior in office -- and you know what? He almost is.
I look at the comments from readers of our story, "Sen. Mike Bennett Caught Looking at Porn on Senate Floor" -- with video showing the senator looking at four women in g-strings and nipple-exposed tops -- and more than a third of them feel sorry for poor Mike Bennett.
Among our critics is Marc Caputo, a red-meat-eating Miami Herald reporter I've long admired. Marc looks, sees no exposure, just women in bikinis, 4 seconds of no-porn, and what's the fuss? Besides, who cares what Sunshine State News says? Disappointing.
I was hoping Marc and others in the Capitol press corps might see what this reporter (in the video shown right) saw. Now here's a guy who really gets what Mike Bennett is all about.
Fortunately, most thinking Floridians get Bennett, too. Soft porn, hard porn -- it doesn't matter. They know when an elected official breaks the public trust. They know that at the very least Mike Bennett's bad behavior -- checking personal, tasteless e-mail during a debate on the Senate floor -- was disrespectful, even contemptuous of an august institution.
In two weeks, Bennett is going to announce he'll run for Congress in 2012. I know, I know, but he's going to do it anyway.
This man is arrogant enough to believe voters will forget about the beach-babes e-mail now shown on a dozen different TV programs, from "Inside Edition" to "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" (that's right -- Sen. Mike and his female quartet are going to be on The Tonight Show maybe this very night). I think that when the time comes, voters will remember. In fact, I hope I'll be here to help them along. One thing Washington doesn't need is another congressman who believes he's invincible, who will transfer his loutish bad habits on the smaller stage to the noisier national arena in D.C.
Why, you ask, don't I give Mike Bennett a break?
Because I did once already.
After I watched Lane Wright's video, Lane and I realized the senator might have an explanation. And he did. Several of them. Have a look at our poll and take your pick. We were entirely prepared to kill the story. That's why we waited over the weekend and did nothing. All Bennett had to do was let us see records from the Senate's server showing us the email. He chose instead to go to the Senate's general counsel and look for a way out. Here is the e-mail he sent to me via Sen. Jeff Atwater's office:
“Last Friday, I took a moment to check my personal email account during a quiet minute on the Senate floor. I received several emails from a former city colleague and life-long friend. I had no prior knowledge as to what the emails would contain and when the contents of one was discovered to be less than appropriate, it was promptly closed. I cannot control what individuals may send me and am disappointed that at a time when there are major issues impacting Florida, an insignificant issue such as this receives any attention.”
I would like to have asked, if the ultrasound issue under discussion on the Senate floor during the bikini-babe download wasn't a significant enough issue to receive his attention, what was? But also attached to the lawyer-sanitized e-mail was an assurance that Sen. Bennett "will not be commenting further."
Personally, I think Bennett was so arrogant, he was convinced he could refuse and we would just go away. I base that on the fact that, less than an hour after we made the video public, he telephoned Lane Wright in a rage, promising to make sure he never works in the Capitol again.
I tried to phone the senator back. I wanted to apologize for implying he was a liar.
I shouldn't have implied any such thing. I should have shouted it from the rafters.
Sen. Bennett is a liar.
It isn't just the different excuses for opening his personal, performing-babes e-mail. Or the way he tilted the screen to hide the babes, then opened it wider when he closed them out.
What tells me he's got at least one gi-normous dark secret on that computer/hard drive/server is, he reasoned he had more to lose by showing us what was on the server than by risking us showing the video.
Think about that for a minute.
That's a man who made a choice.
And, Lordy, yes, that's a liar.
Reach Executive Editor Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (850) 727-0859.