Busted: Top TB Times Reporter Smears Scott Record with Bogus Economic Data

by | Sep 17, 2018

Steve Bousquet is employed by the Tampa Bay Times as the bureau chief in Tallahassee. But perhaps he should just report for work directly to the Bill Nelson for Senate campaign. Or he and his employer should send Nelson a $500,000 invoice, and Nelson’s hapless team should pay it without hesitation. Because it’s doubtful that Nelson or his staff could find any better deal from any political vendor: a half a million dollars to have the state’s largest print newspaper ignore facts, publish false data and rewrite history to undermine Governor Rick Scott‘s greatest strength is a bargain Bill Nelson is unlikely to to get anywhere else.

That the Tampa Bay Times is blatantly liberal is well known. We shouldn’t be surprised in the next month when they ignore Rick Scott’s accomplishments as governor and endorse the do-nothing Nelson for yet another term in the U.S. Senate.

The Times will naturally do an appropriate amount of hand-wringing designed to make only the most ignorant readers buy into the charade that they are impartial judges and arbiters of truth and fairness, before citing what they perceive to be Scott’s unforgivable sins. Topping the list will be Scott’s friendship with President Donald Trump, but the Times will also disparage Scott’s record on education, his stance on guns, certainly they’ll blame him for red tide, algae blooms, and of course for Miami sinking into the ocean and other alleged environmental “disasters.”

But most of all, the Tampa Bay Times will attack Rick Scott’s greatest strength: his record of economic recovery, growth, fiscal responsibility and job creation since taking over the governor’s office in January 2011. They have already laid the groundwork for doing so in a front-page Sunday story this past weekend, by ignoring economic reality, cherry-picking data, finding people to give them the quotes they want, and packaging it all up to make it as compelling as possible. I prefer not to even link to the story because the Times doesn’t deserve a single additional click – but reading it helps to understand the depths to which they sink, so here it is, on the Miami Herald site (the two have a content sharing agreement). There is also plenty of media collusion – the Orlando Sentinel also picked up this same bogus narrative.

Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) did a point-by-point takedown of the story here, it’s very much worth the read, to better understand just how truly awful is Bousquet’s reporting on this subject.

But even without the point-counterpoint, it’s easy to see right through Bousquet’s liberal J-school template for advancing a fake narrative.

The biggest clue that Sunday’s big story is a political hit-job is the fact that Rick Scott is featured prominently in a story that would be fascinating even if Scott wasn’t mentioned at all. The story examines how, even though Florida’s economy is booming, the growth has (allegedly) missed many rural counties. A deeper look at the factors at work would have been a fascinating exercise, but the Tampa Bay Times “ace” reporter can’t be bothered with such trifling details, because his mission is to cast doubt on the fact that Rick Scott has largely delivered on his 2010 campaign promise to turn the economy around with his 7-7-7 Plan: Seven steps to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.

We’re now into year eight, and Scott can lay claim to creating 1.6 million jobs in that span. It’s a fact that even Bousquet is forced to acknowledge in the second paragraph of his story, before devoting the next paragraph (the next six paragraphs, actually) to attacking it:

Gov. Rick Scott talks endlessly about a booming economy that has added nearly 1.6 million jobs in his eight years in office, and an unemployment rate that has plummeted to 3.7 percent.

But there’s another Florida that Rick Scott rarely talks about.

Jackson County, an hour west of Tallahassee, is one of three dozen counties that had fewer jobs in 2017 than it had in 2007, before the Great Recession began and three years before Scott was elected on a promise to turn around the state economy.

It’s a promise he has kept in some places and broken in others.

In his State of the State address two years ago, Scott triumphantly told the Legislature he had “completely” turned around the economy. But it’s not true.

Not only has Jackson not turned around, but things have worsened in the Scott years, according to the school superintendent, a prominent retired judge and the editor of the local newspaper.

“We’re dying,” said Sheila Mader, managing editor of the weekly Jackson County Times and a busy chronicler of daily life in her community.

Cry me a river. I wonder how difficult it was for Bousquet to get a fellow journalist at another dying newspaper to give him an anti-Rick Scott quote.

But if Bousquet took the easy path to getting a good quote, he utterly fails to do his job as a journalist, to look at both sides of the issue (never mind base his story on accurate statistics to begin with). Of course it’s sad that many rural residents in Florida are struggling economically. But it’s not because Florida is dying, rather it’s because Florida’s economy is changing, evolving from an agriculture-based economy to a service economy focused on tourism and hospitality. By definition, that means tourist destinations will see a lot of growth while ag communities don’t.

Bousquet goes out of his way to state that 36 of Florida’s 67 counties actually lost jobs during Rick Scott’s tenure (again, DEO disputes this), while leaving it up to Scott to defend himself in the story. Bousquet, though, can’t let that stand either, and he follows Scott’s own defense with an anecdotal tug on the liberal heartstrings:

“If you look at what’s happened around the state, we have added 1.6 million jobs,” Scott said at a recent Tampa campaign stop, repeating a staple of his election-year message. “Every county has seen a significant reduction in their unemployment rate.”

That’s true in Jackson County. But tell it to Violet Collier, a 21-year-old student who wants to enter the ministry, and works as a volunteer at Chipola Family Ministries, which runs what it calls a food ministry.

It’s a nifty journalistic trick. Ignore the vast, overwhelming evidence, and hold up a gut wrenching anecdote designed to appeal to the reader’s emotions.

We’ll stay focused on facts:

FACT – Every single county in the state has seen its unemployment rate go down.

FACT – That MUST mean that people who used to live in counties like Jackson have moved to where the work is.

FACT – Some people have not moved to where the work is, and those people are understandably having a hard time making ends meet.

Steve Bousquet and the Tampa Bay Times could have explored the underlying reasons for why people don’t move to where the jobs are. Or they could have tracked down people who used to live in Jackson County and interviewed them about their new lives – the better lives they have now because they pursued employment and found it on their own, not waiting for the government to do it for them.

But no. That’s not what a liberal newspaper’s ace reporter would do.

Instead, we have this steaming pile of worthless trash in which the Tampa Bay Times’s Tallahassee bureau chief expends a great deal of effort to try and paint a bleak picture of Florida’s economy and blame Rick Scott for the economic struggles of the small handful of people who have chosen – for whatever their reasons – not to pursue employment in counties where jobs are plentiful.  Many of those folks have compelling reasons for the decisions, I’m sure.

But it bears repeating: this is the bunk issuing forth from Florida’s largest print newspaper, one of the leading media outlets in a state of 21 million people. The Tampa Bay Times wields enormous influence, and they try hard to portray themselves as objective observers of news and politics in the Sunshine State. They are every bit as partisan as I am. The only difference is that I freely admit that I’m a center-right, pro-free market, conservative political commentator and eternal optimist. And I compete on a daily basis against the Tampa Bay Times, who lies right to your face, not only in their stories, but in their claims of being “objective journalists.”





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