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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The saga of Democrats' fake David Jolly/Donald Trump TV ads refuses to die



ST. PETERSBURG — It wouldn't be October without some kind of campaign shenanigans.

Let's start from the beginning:

WTSP-10 News, like other Tampa Bay TV stations, has been airing a controversial ad produced by the Democratic National Campaign Committee that ties Republican Congressman to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The ad includes images altered to make it look like Jolly and Trump are bros who hang out all the time. There's lots of photos showing Trump shaking hands and smiling with Jolly — or rather, with Jolly's head superimposed onto whoever was meeting with Trump.

But in reality, Jolly said he's never met Trump and doesn't plan to vote for him.

It's all part of Jolly's battle for his 13th Congressional District seat with former Gov. Charlie Crist. Recent polls have shown Crist winning the Pinellas County seat, which stretches from Tierra Verde to Clearwater.

Jolly ripped the ad has "false" and has called on Crist to demand the ad be taken down. And he's threatened to sue the TV stations if they continue to run it — and they're still running the ad.

That brings us to Friday: The Jolly campaign sent out a news release with a fuzzy screen shot of the WTSP logo bearing a Facebook message saying the station has agreed to stop airing the ad.

The TV station, according to Jolly’s announcement, "responded to multiple messages from outraged Pinellas voters on its official Facebook page that they have taken all photos and videos regarding the matter off our website and our television channel."

So the Tampa Bay Times called the DCCC and the WTSP to find out if that was true.

Turns out Jolly wasn't right. But he wasn't wrong, either.

The station’s news director, Bob Clinkingbeard, said someone sent private messages using WTSP’s Facebook account, but without authorization.

The messages were "erroneous," he said, and the station has no plan to stop airing the ads. But it is still trying to find the Facebook culprit, Clinkingbeard said, using a tone of voice that seemed to indicate he'd rather have spent his Friday afternoon on any other business.

The DCCC couldn't resist a victory dance.

“David Jolly’s claim that the DCCC’s television ad has been pulled off the air is completely untrue,” wrote DCCC spokesman Jermaine House to the Times. “It appears that David Jolly will go to any length — even apparently lying — in order to hide the fact that, like Donald Trump, he would outlaw women’s right to choose and defund Planned Parenthood."

Wait just a minute, said Jolly campaign manager Max Goodman.

He said the campaign received about 20 of those screen shots from supporters who had complained about the ad on WTSP-10News' Facebook page.

And, Goodman said, the campaign tried to verify WTSP had stopped airing the ad, but TV station executive’s did not return the campaign's calls or emails.

But, Jolly conceded that he may have pulled the trigger a little quickly on this one.

Being down 18 points — at least according to one recent independent poll — can sometimes do that to a candidate.

Meanwhile, in southwest St. Petersburg, a smiling Crist toured a sewage plant with Mayor Rick Kriseman and two well-known Democratic Congresswomen, Lois Frankel of Florida and Barbara Lee of California, who were both in town to stump for Crist.

If enough Democrats are elected to Congress and Hillary Clinton wins the White House, Crist and Kriseman argued, then the federal government could help St. Petersburg address its 14-month sewage crisis. Clinton has proposed a half-trillion dollar infrastructure package to fix roads, bridges and, yes, sewers. Some of that cash will flow St. Petersburg's way, they suggested.

But that won’t happen, the Democrats argued, if Republicans in Congress maintain control and stymie efforts to help cities.

At the end of the brief news conference, a television reporter asked if they were ready to go to work in January.

"From your lips to God's ears," Crist said.

[Last modified: Friday, October 14, 2016 6:24pm]


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