ST. PETERSBURG — Mayoral candidate and City Council member Robert Blackmon said circulating screenshots of Facebook posts he appeared to make with vulgar and disparaging remarks about women, Asians and tenants “do not reflect who I am today, what I stand for or how I will conduct myself as St. Petersburg’s next mayor.”
The posts include several references to women as a “bitch” and three generations of women, including a 3-year-old, as “sluts.” They also included comments about Asian people and made light of removing tenants from a building.
Blackmon, 32, said in a statement Friday that he didn’t know if each of the Facebook posts are “accurate,” but that they are “inappropriate, shameful and embarrassing.” He characterized the circulation of the posts as repeated threats to his campaign.
“This is a sad, desperate attempt by my opponents who are unnerved by the recent poll numbers reflecting my momentum, and by a former candidate for City Council with an axe to grind,” the statement said. “These Facebook posts appear to be from years ago, while Ken Welch’s characterization of former Mayor Rick Baker as a ‘massa’ was from just last year, during his 20th year in elected office.”
Blackmon ended his statement by saying the posts are “a reminder to young people that whatever they post on social media today can hurt themselves and others decades later.”
The Tampa Bay Times found one of the circulated posts on Blackmon’s Facebook profile Wednesday. The 2016 post shows President Donald Trump standing behind former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a 2016 presidential debate.
“He’s within grabbing distance !!” Blackmon wrote in the caption, referencing Trump’s taped remarks about women that surfaced during the election.
Other circulating posts from 2010 to 2013 were not found on Blackmon’s profile and have not been verified, but screenshots appear to have been captured by political rivals during his 2019 City Council race.
In one post, Blackmon appears to call a grandmother, mother and 3-year-old on a plane “3 generations of.... SLUTS ON PLANE!!”
Other posts appear to show Blackmon bragging about hitting on newly-arrived freshmen at Florida State University while he was a 22-year-old student, describing “poking” women on Facebook “with the hopes of sleeping with them” and speculating about the prevalence of Asian people attending a Duke University-FSU basketball game.
The Times originally received screenshots of the posts from an anonymous email account. Former City Council candidate Scott Orsini said the screenshots came from opposition research made when Orsini ran against Blackmon for City Council in 2019.
Orsini dropped out of the race after his own lewd tweets surfaced. Orsini admitted to sending out vulgar and disparaging tweets about LGBTQ people, women and vegans. In August 2018, Orsini wrote of Florida Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, “oddly enough I actually forgot he was black to me he was always just a really good guy who wanted to do the right thing.”
Blue Ticket Consulting’s Meagan Salisbury confirmed that she took screenshots of Blackmon’s Facebook posts while managing Orsini’s campaign in 2019.
“Whatever Scott has done with them after, that’s his business,” she said.
Salisbury and Blue Ticket currently manage the mayoral campaign of City Council member Darden Rice, who is a top candidate for mayor alongside Blackmon and former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch. Orsini donated $200 to Welch’s mayoral campaign earlier this year.
Salisbury didn’t share the Blackmon posts in 2019 because she severed Blue Ticket’s relationship with Orsini over his lewd tweets before the firm began doing paid communications for the campaign, she said.
Orsini didn’t see the Blackmon Facebook posts until earlier this summer, he said. He noticed the posts when he searched through a Blackmon file that Blue Ticket shared upon dropping Orsini as a candidate.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I didn’t know I had it. I wouldn’t have sat on it. I don’t go looking for this stuff. Ever since I dropped out, I’m trying to be a private person,” Orsini said.
He shared the posts with friends as a “gut check,” and estimated he sent them to 10 people, including Democratic political operatives.
Orsini said he has long heard that Blackmon’s 2019 campaign manager Barry Edwards bragged about sinking Orsini’s 2019 campaign with his lewd tweets. Blackmon paid a business under Edwards’ name $31,308 in 2019, according to expenditure reports.
Edwards, who said he’s a friend of Blackmon’s, said in response to Orsini, “I don’t talk about the strategic recommendations I do for past campaigns. Period.”
Orsini said that he doesn’t care about getting revenge for the 2019 incident, but feels like the posts offered important insight into a leading candidate’s character.
“As insensitive as some of my posts were, I think these are worse,” Orsini said. “I think it kind of reflects who he is … it shows bad judgment and a lack of impulse control on his part, and I don’t think we need that in our city.”
The Blackmon Facebook screenshots circulated privately among St. Petersburg’s politically involved until Allendale United Methodist Church pastor Andy Oliver shared some of the posts on Facebook on July 18 alongside a Maya Angelou quote that read, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Over 350 people shared Oliver’s post displaying the screenshots, but Blackmon didn’t publicly acknowledge them until the Times reached out for comment. Oliver has endorsed Welch for mayor.