Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

After dog dodge, state GOP spokesman departs

TALLAHASSEE — Brian Burgess, the combative communications director for the Republican Party of Florida, is returning to the private sector less than five months after taking over as the party's top communicator.

Burgess would not return emails or telephone calls, but was shown the door at the party after he did not answer questions from the Tampa Bay Times about a rescued Labrador retriever adopted by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott publicly adopted the dog during the 2010 campaign and held a contest to name it — people chose Reagan — but Scott returned the dog shortly after taking office in 2011.

The resulting publicity outraged animal lovers across the state who accused Scott of adopting the dog as a campaign gimmick.

Burgess, 42, will be joining Brian Hughes, former spokesman for the party, at Meteoric Media Strategies, a private public relations business. Hughes and Burgess worked together in Scott's office shortly after Scott was elected governor and during the 2010 campaign. Hughes announced the new partnership in a statement to the Florida Times-Union Tuesday shortly after the Times asked Burgess for comment on his dismissal from the party.

Hughes' firm has consulting contracts with the Republican Party of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other conservative groups. He has been paid more than $195,000 for campaign work since 2010, including $92,000 from the state party.

Burgess began working for the state party in September after 18 months working in the governor's office. Burgess previously worked for a Washington public relations firm that handled communications for Scott's gubernatorial campaign. He has a history of clashing with reporters — in public and in private — and was once called "an aggressive knife-fighter" by a prominent Florida communications consultant.

"I really don't miss some of you dips---- at all," Burgess emailed a Kansas reporter in 2008, after he left to work with a conservative public relations firm in Virginia. "Have fun in your world of make-believe."

As the governor's top spokesman, Burgess publicly lambasted reporters for the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald when they asked Scott why he included $370 million in federal stimulus money in the state budget in 2011 after repeatedly attacking the stimulus package as wasteful government spending.

Burgess objected to the reporters asking the governor about it rather than talking to him first.

"You're unprofessional and engage in 'gotcha' journalism w/o fact-checking," Burgess tweeted to Herald reporter Marc Caputo.

"You ducked the question for a 2nd time: Name 1 fact that was wrong," Caputo replied.

In the case of Reagan, Burgess said he was working on an answer to a reporter's questions but never provided one.

Five days after Burgess and other Scott staffers refused to respond to questions about the dog, Scott answered questions about the puppy himself, saying he had returned the dog to a Naples dog groomer after it frightened mansion staff. Later his staff produced an incident report with details of a dog bite suffered by a mansion groundskeeper.

Although the Naples groomer will not respond to questions about Reagan's fate, she reportedly told a Tampa television reporter that the dog has been renamed Pluto and is living on a horse ranch in South Florida.

Some time after flying Reagan back to Naples, Scott adopted a 7-year-old dog from a couple in New Jersey suffering from cancer. Melissa Sellers, communications director for Scott, said the new dog was located by an old family friend of the governor's who lived in Connecticut.

After dog dodge, state GOP spokesman departs 01/29/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 10:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility

    World

    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia

    World

    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]