Now playing across television screens in central Florida: a furtive, fifteen-second television ad featuring Democrat Andrew Gillum telling voters he was actually helping the FBI “root out corruption” in Tallahassee. Gillum has previously claimed he wasn’t the target of an FBI public corruption investigation. But public records prove that at least three FBI special agents posed undercover in an elaborate sting operation targeting Gillum with what appear to be bribes in the form of tickets to premium events, posh hotels, and even arranged to pay for part of Gillum’s official campaign kickoff event for governor.
In the new ad Gillum tells voters:
“As mayor of Tallahassee, I fought corruption, and supported the FBI’s work to root out corrupt politicians and lobbyists. As governor, I’ll fight special interests, for the people of Florida.”
The newest ad’s claims are so brazen that Gillum may actually be ashamed of it, hoping it doesn’t attract media attention.
Of the 168 videos he’s posted on YouTube since he launched his campaign, this one is nowhere to be found on his official channel or his campaign website. Television viewers in central Florida, stunned that he would pretend he was actually helping the FBI investigation, rather than its target, managed to record the ad on a cell phone and forward the captured video to The Capitolist. A search for an official version of the ad turned up nothing. It is the only known ad in which Gillum makes the misleading claim himself. In the past week, new revelations came to light suggesting that Gillum knowingly accepted the potential bribes from a person whom he only later learned was an undercover FBI agent.
Over the past week, Gillum has been roundly criticized by the news media in Florida for offering misleading, contradicting or outright false statements in response to questions about the potential bribes. Even the Tampa Bay Times, which endorsed Gillum over Ron DeSantis, has made it clear that Gillum hasn’t been forthcoming. Adam Smith, the Times lead political editor, ripped into Gillum:
Gillum handled this terribly. For at least a year, he has been evasive, stonewalling, misleading and, perhaps, untruthful about his trips/junkets with a lobbyist pal and undercover FBI investigator.
He says the FBI asked him not to discuss it. So what? If you’re running for governor of America’s third largest state and you did nothing wrong, get the facts out there. Put it behind you, rather than have to answer questions just as six million people are casting their votes.
And playing the race card when facing legitimate questions makes you look like another cynical pol, when you’re running as an optimistic, unifying idealist.
But none of it may matter. A poll released today by the University of North Florida shows that Gillum’s strategy to cloud the issue on television with ads like this may be convincing some voters to accept his explanation. Gillum leads DeSantis in the UNF poll by a margin of 49-43 percent. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3 points.
Here’s the TV ad captured by mobile phone on a central Florida TV screen: