Brian Mast is a Republican, I’m a Republican. There the similarity ends. If Florida’s 18th congressional district incumbent ever had a chance of winning my vote in November, he surely lost it Tuesday.
I don’t vote for politicians who make a joke of targeting 15-year-olds as sex objects and talking like pedophiles and rapists on social media. Which is precisely what Brian Mast did.
This is no small thing. It is perhaps a mother’s greatest fear in today’s monster rape culture: how to protect her children from sexual predators.
By now you’ve probably seen Tuesday’s South Florida Sun Sentinel story showing the Feb. 23, 2009 Facebook post in which Mast joked to his buddy Rocco LeDonni about rape, and referenced sex with 15-year-old girls. LeDonni serves as his current campaign manager in a fierce battle to win re-election against Democrat Pam Keith.
The 2009 comment involves a photo of a bar outing LeDonni posted, taken during his vacation to South Africa.
Posted Mast, “i’m so proud of you … i hope you hook up with at least fifteen 15 year olds over there…. its legal there right.”
Two years later, in a May 20, 2011 post, LeDonni was back again, asking, “Anyone have any good pick up lines for this weekend considering according to the crazy christian radio guy the world may end on sunday?”
Replied Mast, “How about don’t turn this rape into a murder.”
That’s what he said: “Don’t turn this rape into a murder.” That was his fun idea for his buddy’s pick-up line.
What I don’t get is why the posts never prompted a pang of conscience or a second thought. They stayed public on Facebook for 11 years. All that time, not given another thought, not taken down until the Sun Sentinel asked about them for Tuesday’s story.
Mast, who lost his legs and a finger in Afghanistan in September 2010 when a bomb exploded under him, gave the Sun Sentinel this apology. “A decade ago when I was in the Army, and following my injury, I made disgusting and inappropriate jokes that I am embarrassed to have associated with my name today,” he said. “I am sorry about that part of who I was, and I strive every day to be a better example for my kids.”
That’s it. Two sentences, Mast over and out. Bad enough he thought all he had to do was dash off a mea-culpa quickie, but he found a way to fluff up his apology with a LIE, apparently figuring we’d be too dumb to notice.
In its version of the story, The Hill newspaper offered comment from an unnamed source claiming Mast was drugged up with “morphine, oxycodone, sleep sedatives, anti-inflammatories and anti-depressants” during his recovery at Walter Reed Army Hospital, and he didn’t necessarily know what he was saying.
Yet, the first Facebook reference to lots of sex with 15-year-olds came a year BEFORE Mast was injured, not as he said, “following my injury.”
Jacob Perry, a former Mast campaign consultant, used another Facebook post to denounce the congressman. “These comments are vile, disgusting and inexcusable and it makes me regret my prior association with anyone who would speak about young women in such a way. There are no excuses and you can’t use your injuries as a shield this time.”
Facebook posters, most of them Mast’s constituents, wasted no time reacting to the congressman’s comments.
Wrote Reid Friedson, “I agree with (Palm Beach County Commissioner) Melissa (MacKinlay). Resign, Mast …”
“It isn’t as if he was a stupid teenager when he said this,” said Betty Sims. “He was a grown man. Inexcusable!”
Commented Carissa Grone, “How was this not discovered until now? I’m so disgusted. This isn’t ‘locker room talk.’ This is evil. These statements can’t be apologized for. … I regret voting for him, for speaking to others in his favor, for ever condoning him. He needs to resign. I’m disgusted.”
There were many more comments. Dozens more, including one or two from folks who wanted to give Mast a pass on this one. (“While I don’t care for his remarks, I can overlook them because I have known plenty of men who have admitted saying things that were not appropriate when joking around with their buddies …”)
But Mast’s words particularly struck a chord for Nyla Pipes of Port St. Lucie, director at One Florida Foundation and a frequent Facebook poster. Pipes, a young mother herself, has been a victim of rape in her life. She bravely spoke out about her experience in a series of writings Wednesday, about what it meant to read her congressman’s flippant reference to sex crimes when he didn’t think anyone would notice.
What she wrote moved many of her more than 4,000 followers, myself included. Here’s a excerpt from one of her entries:
“I have many friends both sides of the aisle. I know some will support Congressman Brian Mast and excuse his bad behavior as ‘locker room talk’. As a woman, I cannot do that. I cannot ‘go along, to get along’.
“At age 15, girls are just beginning to figure out their bodies, their minds. They are NOT READY for men twice their age to be objectifying them and taking advantage of them. They are still children. Biologically, they may have matured, but those girls don’t have life experience to protect themselves from unwanted advances. They don’t have the maturity to recognize the difference between a relationship and being used. This is WHY we have laws against having sex with someone age 15!!!
“I will not excuse these comments made in 2009 because of a weak apology where blame was thrown on a war injury that occurred in 2010. And don’t even get me started about the ‘Don’t turn rape into murder’ comment. I’m disgusted by all of it! This is BEYOND politics … I’m speaking up for all our daughters, all our granddaughters. Some things cannot be excused. There is no grey area. ‘Joking’ about men in their 30s wanting to have sex with 15-year-olds is just wrong!”
Brian Mast is a hypocrite.
In 2017, when TCPalm.com asked him if he believed Alabama’s Roy Moore should withdraw his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Mast emailed this response: “Pedophiles should have no place in the United States Congress.“
Amazing: This from a congressman whose pedophile-enabling postings from 2009 and 2011 were still public on Facebook.
At present, Mast is the lead sponsor on a military rape-survivor bill. The congressman for the Treasure Coast who jested about rape with his buddy nine years ago, who wasn’t even bothered enough by what he said to make sure the posting was pulled off of Facebook.
Mast’s camp claims his Democratic challenger, former Navy JAG officer Pam Keith, is worse than he is because she never apologized for saying on Twitter that Joe Biden “still has LOTS of rape to do to catch up to Trump.” Said Mast in an Aug. 20 tweet, “… There is no room for joking about sexual violence!”
Each year, countless children around the nation fall prey to sexual predators. These young victims are left with permanent psychological, physical, and emotional scars. Nyla Pipes got it right: It’s time to get mad. Time to fight back.
Zero tolerance for rape-culture cronies, especially when we’ve handed them the public trust.
Stuart resident Nancy Smith worked in various writing and editing roles at The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News, including managing editor, from 1977 until she retired in 2005. In 2010 she returned to work as executive editor of the Tallahassee-based Sunshine State News, from which she retired in November 2019.