In a state like Florida-- with a governor like Ron "Death" DeSantis, a sex trafficking congressman like Gaetz, and a toxic resident like Trump-- it's hard for anyone else to compete for a chance to be top villain-- even for Villain of the Week.
Look how do you compete with DeSantis when just yesterday, the epitome of a newspaper wedded to the status quo like the Orlando Sentinel is, featured a full on editorial blaming him (rightfully) for Florida's pandemic catastrophe? "Florida," the editorial board wrote, "was all over the news this past weekend with one of the nation’s biggest spikes in COVID cases and hospitalizations. And where was Gov. Ron DeSantis as this health crisis resurged? Visiting hospitals? Consulting with physicians and public health experts? Huddling with his staff to brainstorm ways of persuading more Floridians to take the vaccine that would nip this pandemic in the bud? Nope. Florida’s governor was in Texas, 1,000 miles from Tallahassee, burnishing his 2024 presidential ambitions with a visit to the southern border."
Overall new COVID cases are up nearly 200% in Florida over the past two weeks, and Florida is third in the nation in per capita increases, accounting for nearly 20% of the entire nation’s new COVID infections. The rate of positive COVID tests is now well north of 10%. Recent data show Florida with the fourth-highest rate of COVID hospitalizations and the nation’s highest average for daily deaths over the past week.
Deaths have always been a lagging indicator in this pandemic, so the current wave of cases and hospitalizations could portend another summer of grief for Florida.
Meanwhile, Florida remains mired in vaccination mediocrity, compared with the rest of the nation. We’re a middle-of -the-pack state with barely 57% of the adult population fully vaccinated, below the national average. The AARP just reported that Florida has the second lowest rate of vaccinated nursing home workers in the nation, and a lower than average population of nursing home residents vaccinated.
And the governor is making fun of how Anthony Fauci throws a baseball?
To save lives, he must start acting like Florida’s governor and less like he’s auditioning for Turning Point USA or Texas Gov. Greg Abbott or whatever Fox News host comes calling.
...At the moment, it’s as if DeSantis has washed his hands of the matter and moved on to elections, borders, critical race theory, mocking Fauci or whatever else will get him a headline.
And every few days, nearly as many people are dying from COVID as died in the recent collapse of a condominium in South Florida.
“Leadership is about handling problems.”
That’s what DeSantis told the conservative TPUSA crowd on Sunday.
We agree. Completely.
Please, governor, we’re begging you, handle the COVID problem. Be a leader.
But if there ever was a Florida villain to compete with Gaetz, DeSantis and even Trump, it is Florida Republican Party chair and state Senator Joe Gruters. I became more familiar with just how detestable Gruters is last year when Katherine Norman ran a spirited campaign for a state Senate seat he holds south of Tampa/St. Petersburg. She tied him to the lack of action of Climate Change and on the pandemic. "When we choose to endorse an individual versus ideals, policies, and vision," Norman told me a year ago, it is a dangerous slippery slope. We must hold elected officials accountable for their actions. We cannot decide to endorse an individual that fails to live up to the standards they purport to represent. If elected officials do not live up to their promises, even within one's own party, they should be held accountable. This should be a normalized, accepted, and even promoted part of the political process. Our local leaders should be loyal to our districts, our counties, our communities. They should represent our values... When Gruters sold out in late 2014, he decided to choose blind loyalty either because he is completely and utterly selfish, happy to exploit the political process to his financial gain, or because he is too completely ethically vacant and inept that he doesn't actually realize how devastating this administration's actions are. Either way this is a dangerous individual happy to claim to represent constituents' values while not fit to be representing the interests of constituents anywhere. How can he represent Sarasota and Charlotte County when he is forced to represent Trump?"
A month later, Norman told us that Gruters has "campaigned by lying and deceiving the public so egregiously because of loyalties to this administration." She pointed out that DeSantis and Gruters "have had to lie for this administration so many times they either don’t even mark it is significant, can no longer discern fact from fiction, or don’t care anymore as long as it is for political gain... Gruters lied to CBS news reporter Jim DeFede claiming Black Lives Matter protestors were armed and threatening the McCloskeys who spoke at the Republican National Convention. Deliberately inflaming the incident and amplifying it by alleging that BLM protestors were some how responsible for or an aggressive force in this instance is a deliberate attempt to smear the movement, which is peaceful and asking for basic compassion in response to police violence and justice in excessive force cases. I am not sure why anyone would try to take opposition to confronting racial bias in our communities or law enforcement agencies, or why an elected official would ignore the pain from constituents wrongly harmed. The blind loyalty to this administration has cost these elected officials connection with actual voters in our area and the issues that matter here. Voters can no longer trust the Florida GOP."
Predictably, the Florida Democratic Party gave Gruters a free pass and refused to back Norman's election. Too bad they never hired a private investigator to look a little more closely intoa man well known as a typical right-wing, self-entitled criminal. Instead, today we have the Florida Republican Party investigating him, their own chairman! A gay sex scandal has been on the verge of breaking and the Florida Republican Party wants to get out ahead of it before it singes Trump, for whom Gruters was the state campaign chair.
Yesterday, Matt Dixon reported for Politico that Gruters "sexually harassed" a male GOP staffer after a night at a Tallahassee bar last year. The staffer filed a formal complaint with the state party, which promptly covered it up. Dixon reported that yesterday "Party Treasurer Mike Moberly confirmed the general outlines of the allegations, adding that he was aware of the probe but couldn’t comment further until the investigation is completed."
In a statement, Gruters said he’s unaware of any open investigation against him, adding that “we take these matters seriously and treat them with the utmost respect.”
A source close to Gruters told Politico Tuesday that Gruters was informed last week that the investigation was closed.
Rumors that the Republican Party was investigating Gruters first started spreading in Tallahassee circles earlier this month, but became more widespread Sunday evening as party executive committee members were told of the probe, which is led by prominent GOP attorney Ben Gibson.
Yet some in the party fault Gibson for not raising the issue during the party's most recent quarterly meeting last month.
“Gibson knew about it at the last quarterly meeting and did not include it in his report,” said a party official.
Gibson did not respond to a request for comment.
Some party executive committee members said they are frustrated that they are just now learning about an ongoing internal party investigation involving their chair, a potential scandal that comes as they gear up for what will be a contentious 2022 election cycle.
“I don’t really have any official details other than what I was told last night, so I’m not sure what to think,” said former state Rep. Matt Caldwell, who serves on the party’s executive committee. “But there are questions I want to answers to.”
Others say they feel the situation resembles, in part, an unrelated cover up led by Jim Greer, who served as chair of the Florida Republican Party from 2006 to 2010 and later pleaded guilty in 2013 to laundering party funds and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
“It feels like a Greer-style cover up,” said another official.
From what I'm hearing about this coverup is that Gruters, drunk, tried to perform fellatio on the staffer who was driving. When the staffer physically resisted, Gruters threatened his career at the Florida Republican Party. The staffer was later approached by an "investigator" hired by the Party/Gruters who persuaded him to not testify against Gruters. The state Senate, run by Gruters ally Wilton Simpson, another crooked Trumpist, has refused to investigate. When DeSantis heard about the details of the assault, he refused to attend a rally Gruters set up for Trump in Sarasota two weeks ago. Gruters, long rumored to be a closet case, is, like many conflicted Republican closet cases, married to a woman, living a lie.