The biggest scandal in Florida belongs solely to the Sunshine State’s governor, suspected racist Ron DeSantis, whose series of grave missteps that led to a delayed response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus public health crisis there have made national headlines for all the wrong reasons. But perhaps coming in at a close second place was last month’s reported hotel incident involving Andrew Gillum, who lost Florida’s gubernatorial election to DeSantis by just 30,000 votes in 2018.
According to a new report, the police department that responded to an apparent drug overdose in a Miami Beach hotel room with Gillum and two other men last month are still preparing evidence to disseminate to comply with media requests for access to the public information. In particular, the Tallahassee Democrat indicated that “bodycam footage” could ultimately be released from the episode. The news outlet in the Florida state capital where Gillum was mayor from 2014-2018 reported this week that it “has requested more records and bodycam footage from the incident, but Miami Beach Police officials said Wednesday ‘the request is still being processed and reviewed for the applicable redactions.'”
It was unclear what exactly the bodycam footage would show, or if there was even any recorded in the first place.
There are still many questions surrounding that fateful early morning of March 13, when Gillum was found inebriated and unresponsive in a compromising position with two other men in a hotel room where a police report indicated there was suspected drug use. A series of graphic photos purportedly of Gillum from inside the hotel room showed drugs. Gillum released a brief public statement apologizing and saying he had too much to drink before he voluntarily entered rehab to treat what he said was depression and a drinking problem he developed shortly after losing the gubernatorial election in 2018.
There has been suspicion that Gillum was the victim of a political smear and may have been set up in part to disparage Democrats during an election year that previously had the former mayor on the shortlist of people the nominee should consider for a vice presidential running mate. Florida law enforcement has not verified the photos on social media in addition to those published by conservative tabloid the Daily Mail that showed drugs and other images purportedly from inside the hotel room. The Miami Beach Police department subsequently announced that it had opened a review into how the images along with the corresponding police report were leaked to the media before it was ready to be shared. Candace Owens was the first to post the police report to social media with GOP-leaning actor James Woods was suspended from Twitter for posting the graphic photos.
Owens’ involvement along with other aspects of Gillum’s hotel incident sparked suspicions of some type of setup. While that was not confirmed, Owens’ likely anti-Black Democrat agenda was on display for all to see when she also tweeted a photo of Travis Dyson, one of two other men in the hotel from with Gillum. Owens claimed Dyson is “an openly gay man” with whom Gillum was having “a drug/sex party.” That tweet came more than two hours after Owens tweeted a copy of the police report.
It was precisely that type of news coverage that prompted the penning of an open letter to Gillum, Black men and the media in an effort to encourage support for the former mayor and his family and at the same time “be our Brother’s keeper and be the change in which we seek.” No one is “irredeemable,” Preston Mitchum and Michael Seaberry wrote in the open letter they published late last month and invited other Black men to sign.
Prior to the incident in the hotel, Gillum had also been working as the chairman of Forward Florida Action, a political group that describes its objective as “registering and reengaging voters who are often unseen and unheard, electing more leaders that share our values to local office, and making the state legislature more diverse.”
But the Tallahassee Democrat also reported that Forward Florida Action has been hemorrhaging funds at a rapid pace since Gillum’s incident. That includes paying $125,000 to three separate law firms last month after the hotel incident. And while that may not seem like that much money, Forward Florida Action has reportedly spent nearly $700,000 total on legal fees since November, when “the committee has reported it raised $25,000 while it spent $1.2 million.”
Forward Florida Action started with the $3 million remaining from Gillum’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid and he pledged to use it to carry out the group’s mission. But now with Gillum away from public life and reports that it has only “distributed $278,000 to campaigns and voter registration efforts,” it was unclear how impactful Forward Florida Action can be with “just over $1.8 million left in its account” with less than seven months to go to Election Day.
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