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Remember that tweet 'barring' Donald Trump from St. Petersburg? Mayor Rick Kriseman sure does, but isn't worried

When then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a ban on Muslim immigration last year, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman took to the future president's favorite social media platform to ridicule that idea. "I am hereby banning Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps," Kriseman tweeted at 7:01 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2015. The tweet went viral, and the mayor had his day in the media spotlight. But now that Trump is the President-elect, does the mayor fear any repercussions? Not really, Kriseman said. [Twitter]
When then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a ban on Muslim immigration last year, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman took to the future president's favorite social media platform to ridicule that idea. "I am hereby banning Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps," Kriseman tweeted at 7:01 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2015. The tweet went viral, and the mayor had his day in the media spotlight. But now that Trump is the President-elect, does the mayor fear any repercussions? Not really, Kriseman said. [Twitter]
Published Jan. 14, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — President-elect Donald Trump loves Twitter.

So does Mayor Rick Kriseman, whose Twitter feed is a daily mix of announcements, positive news and praise for the residents of Florida's fifth-largest city.

A little over a year ago, shortly after Trump proposed a ban on Muslim immigration, Kriseman took to the future president's favorite social media platform to ridicule that idea.

"I am hereby barring Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps," Kriseman tapped out on his cellphone at 7:01 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2015.

The tweet quickly burned a hole through layers of social media white noise and reached viral escape velocity: It got nearly 3 million impressions, was retweeted nearly 20,000 times and netted 584 followers for the mayor, who appeared on MSNBC and even Israeli radio to talk about his playful ban.

Trump never responded, and never did visit St. Petersburg during the campaign. And now, of course, he will soon become the 45th president of the United States.

Kriseman admitted that when he hit the tweet button last year, he had no inkling that he was trolling the next president.

"I don't know that anyone thought he had a chance of reaching the White House," Kriseman said.

But the mayor, who is set to deliver his third "State of the City" address at 10 a.m. today, said he's not sorry for torching the president-elect.

"It was tongue in cheek," Kriseman said, pointing to his state legislative career. "In Tallahassee, I was a tough competitor, but I never made it personal."

Now that Trump has won, Kriseman said he doesn't expect any revenge from a politician that seems to have had a hard time letting bygones be bygones.

"I can't imagine that with everything that's been said and happened over the course of the campaign," Kriseman said, "that a tweet from the mayor of St. Pete is going to stand out in his mind and he's going to say: 'I'm going to get that guy.' "

John Parmelee, a communications professor at the University of North Florida and author of the 2013 book Politics and the Twitter Revolution, was intrigued that Trump never took Kriseman's Twitter bait.

"I'm kind of surprised he didn't respond," Parmelee said, "he is the ultimate counter puncher."

But Trump doesn't always wade into every Twitter war himself, Parmelee said. Often, it was the president-elect's millions of Twitter followers who responded to any tweet disparaging their candidate during the 2016 campaign.

Kriseman, who is Jewish, knows that firsthand. He was the recipient of a considerable amount of Twitter vitriol, much of it anti-Semitic.

"There were some real ugly responses," Kriseman said. "There was one that superimposed my face on a concentration camp survivor in the outfit, saying 'You and your tribe are the real problem.' "

Another photo was altered so that a yellow star appeared on Kriseman's forehead — the same kind of star that Jews were required to wear in Nazi Germany.

The rigors of the presidency may eventually curtail Trump's Twitter habit and his penchant for feuds, said David Colburn, director of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida.

"Trump has been getting a reputation for retaliating against those who are critical of him," Colburn said. "I suspect he may back away from that in time. He cannot retaliate against everybody, and he will find that he has remarkably limited power as president if he keeps trying to punish his critics. Richard Nixon found that out firsthand."

Still, could the White House one day retaliate against St. Petersburg? That's not entirely hypothetical to City Council member Karl Nurse.

"I wouldn't want to be applying for federal grants over the next few years," Nurse quipped. "In all seriousness, you have to hope that the people approving the grants are far enough down the pyramid."

Last year, the city received $6.7 million in federal and federal pass-through grants.

So what happens if Trump decides to test the ban on setting foot in St. Petersburg? The mayor drew a comparison to visits from Republican governor —and Trump ally — Rick Scott. In those cases, Kriseman said, it's business as usual.

"What can we do to help make the visit successful?" the mayor said. "I'd be hopeful to meet with him to talk about the needs of our community."

As for the Trump presidency, Kriseman says he's taking a cue from President Barack Obama and hoping for the best: "I am trying to be optimistic."

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

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