By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
I remember a radio newscaster back in the ’70s who used to sign off with the cheerful advice, “If you don’t like the news, go make some of your own.”
It looks like Gov. Rick Scott is doing just that. Or make that the people whom the state Republican Party hired to run Rick Scott’s Facebook page.
Scott’s Facebook page featured a picture of a Miami Herald front page, dated Mon., April 9, with the blaring headline: “New Law Helps Put Floridians Back To Work.”
Funny thing, the dateline read “Guatemala City.”
Another funny thing: the headline was a fake.
It was slapped over an actual story from the Herald‘s international edition of March 5, 2007. The real headline was “Murders highlight rise in crime in Guatemala.”
After a complaint from the Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch, the Republican Party of Florida took the page down. Party spokesman Brian Hughes called it a case of “overzealous graphics.”
Yes, you have to watch out for those graphics — you know how emotional they can get.
Hirsch, not amused, called it a “fraud on the public,” as well as a trademark infringement and copyright infringement.
According to the Herald, the governor’s Facebook and Twitter postings are handled by a Texas outfit, Harris Media. In Scott’s first year of office, 2011, it was paid $68,000 by the Republican Party of Florida.
For a governor who has not been known for being particularly forthcoming with the press, it is a rich irony to see his PR folks appropriate the front page of one of the state’s leading newspapers to trumpet his message.
Another irony is that the message doesn’t need embellishing. In point of fact, Scott’s record on job creation is arguably pretty good. In his first year as governor, Florida saw almost 135,000 new jobs — as he’s said, third most of any state in the nation. Unemployment has dipped to 9.4 percent (February 2012) from 10.9 percent (January 2011).
But as an earlier FCIR report showed, Scott has little reason to boast about the job statistics:
- There’s no evidence Scott’s policies are responsible for any of the new jobs in Florida over the past year.
- The jobless rate is falling because so many Floridians have stopped looking for work that they aren’t being counted anymore.
- Steep cuts in state spending have further squeezed the poor and unemployed, and in turn, the municipalities in which they live.
- The majority of new jobs are in the lowest-paying sectors.
- Wages have fallen for the poorest workers.
- Poverty has increased.
- Florida has one of the highest populations of uninsured in the country.