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Tampa Rep. Betty Reed's honors claimed are way overstated

TAMPA — Rep. Betty Reed, the incumbent in the two-Democrat District 59 race for the Florida House, recently mailed a piece of campaign literature that included this statement as part of her first-term accomplishments:

"My colleagues in the Florida Legislature recognized my hard work and dedication to District 59. I was recognized as most productive 'Freshman of the Year' as well as Hillsborough County's elected official of the year."

It could lead a reader to believe that it was Reed's colleagues in the Legislature who bestowed on her those titles. But, in fact, the state House doesn't designate award winners at the end of a session.

When questioned, Reed provided specifics behind the honors. Turned out, those titles didn't come from legislators at all.

The phrase "most productive 'Freshman of the Year' " was a mistake, she said. "An oversight on my part."

Drop "most" and "of the Year," and you get "productive freshman." Reed said she felt honored by an Aug. 2007 Tampabay.com blog entry in the Buzz, titled "Quiet but productive freshman."

As for her colleagues in the Legislature recognizing her hard work and dedication, Reed refers to two legislators quoted in that blog entry:

"I salute her and congratulate her for her outstanding endeavors as a freshman," Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindigall, D-Miami, said on the floor. And, another, Rep. Terry Fields, D-Jacksonville: "Betty Reed! Betty Reed! Rep. Betty Reed! I love saying her name like that."

So, yes, Reed said, her colleagues did recognize her.

As for "elected official of the year"? Reed was among winners of the "Black Diamond Awards" issued by Mount Pleasant Standard Based Middle School to African-American winners during Black History Month. Other awards included "business of the year" and "student of the year."

She said she was proud of the honor, because it came from her constituents.

When asked if that omission was misleading, Reed said, "Having the opportunity to go back and look at it, yes, I would present it in a different format."

We'd suggest a format that doesn't make up the title "Freshman of the Year" and doesn't convert a blog entry into an award. And one that doesn't omit the fact that the only legitimate honor in that statement was given by a middle school.

We rule this statement Pants on Fire.

The statement

"My colleagues in the Florida Legislature recognized my hard work and dedication to District 59. I was recognized as most productive 'Freshman of the Year' as well as Hillsborough County's elected official of the year."

Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, in campaign literature mailed to constituents in July

The ruling

Reed was never named "most productive 'Freshman of the Year' " — because that award doesn't exist.

Tampa Rep. Betty Reed's honors claimed are way overstated 08/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2008 9:05am]
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