NEW PORT RICHEY — In his first public speech since his wife's arrest last week, Mayor Scott McPherson railed against "print media" journalists that he said had quoted him "out of context" in their coverage of his statements to Pasco deputies and dispatchers.
McPherson has been highly critical of press reports in the week since his wife, Kimberly McPherson, 44, was charged with slapping her husband outside a Trinity bar and grill. The mayor, according to arrest reports, was hostile and demeaning to deputies on the scene, alleging he would use his mayoral influence to end their careers. In calls McPherson made to emergency dispatchers, he asked to speak directly to Sheriff Bob White, ordered that a deputy be taken immediately off duty and claimed a deputy sexually assaulted his wife.
McPherson's 10 minutes of prepared remarks to begin Tuesday night's City Council meeting may have marked his most vocal appearance yet. He said he could not "ignore allegations against me by the local media that I intended to abuse my power … or cash in on favors." McPherson said that journalists had "cherry-picked" his words to quote him out of context. He spoke uninterrupted before a crowded City Hall, two TV cameras, several journalists and Mrs. McPherson, who smiled at him from the back row.
Critics and residents calling for his resignation, he said, had portrayed him "as a tyrant and an egocentric, power-hungry politician."
"I wouldn't blame you," he added, "if all I had was the newspaper to read."
McPherson said he would not discuss the allegations of belligerence leveled at him by seven Pasco County Sheriff's Office deputies, calling it only an "embarrassing situation." He repeated apologies to his wife and city residents and reiterated that he would not resign before his last 10 months in office.
To support his assertion that he does not abuse his power, McPherson quoted a comment he left on Facebook the day before the arrest criticizing government waste in California. And in response to a deputy's report stating McPherson had used the phrase "Moon Lake b-----," published in a St. Petersburg Times editorial, McPherson said he had pushed for studies of the lake while serving on the board of directors of Tampa Bay Water.
"I did lose it," McPherson said. "But it was only after the circumstances" he said he would not discuss.
After McPherson's speech, Donna Thompson, the mayor's mother-in-law, said she was "proud of Scott" and quoted Sarah Palin as saying, "If I believed everything I read in the media, I wouldn't like me, either."
Al Striano, a member of the city Land Development Review Board and the only other to comment, said McPherson was a man of "integrity."
"He is honest," he said. "I would trust him with my children."
Contact Drew Harwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6244.