Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva issued a lengthy statement on Twitter Tuesday afternoon explaining his decision not to take any action against State Representative Anthony Sabatini for a tweet which included the image of an AR-15 rifle. The tweet warned that the weapon would be a “common sight upon illegal entry at any Lake County business.”
Attention potential “protesters” coming near Lake County, FL. This is an AR-15—this will be a very common sight upon illegal entry at any Lake County business—FYI! pic.twitter.com/G72q26YDww
— Rep. Anthony Sabatini (@AnthonySabatini) May 31, 2020
Several Democrat elected officials, including the state’s highest ranking Democrat, Nikki Fried, wrote a letter to Oliva complaining that Sabatini’s post “encouraged those who encountered protesters in Lake City to brandish weapons.” But in her letter, Fried deliberately ignored the fact that Sabatini’s post contained quotation marks around the word “protesters,” obviously implying a reference to looters and rioters as opposed to real protesters.
“It is my conclusion that the wording of the tweet does not constitute a direct or preemptive threat to any specific person, organized group or entity. The tweet represents a stated and implied reaction to a potential threat,” wrote Oliva. “Representative Sabatini’s comments were no doubt provocative, as for their wisdom, I will leave that to the public at large. However, they were directed specifically at a hypothetical party who would engage in an unlawful act.”
Fried has a history of misleading the public (see also: here, and here) and amping up political rhetoric and false statements since she was elected, most recently accusing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis of “deliberately undermining public confidence” in state health data in the Rebekah Jones case. Even after Jones’ allegations of data manipulation were debunked, Fried has continued to push the false conspiracy theory.
In the Sabatini case, Oliva issued a statement roundly rejecting Fried’s complaint after careful consideration of the underlying facts. Read his full statement below:
I am in receipt of a few letters regarding a tweet by Rep. Anthony Sabatini. The imagery notwithstanding, it is my conclusion that the wording of the tweet does not constitute a direct or preemptive threat to any specific person, organized group or entity.
The tweet represents a stated and implied reaction to a potential threat. The specific threat being the illegal trespass of private property. The rules governing the actions of members of the house are in place to maintain order and decorum consistent with the traditions of the House. The rules do not and should not grant presiding officers the power to determine the wisdom of member’s speech. This is a truth I think we all can agree on.
This is especially important to prevent the abuse of power that could result when the majority is offended by the views of the minority. During my time presiding over the House there have been several occasions on which the public remarks of members have struck me as offensive.
On every occasion I have sought to isolate my personal view of an action or statement in order to preserve and protect members rights as duly elected representatives and citizens.
Rep. Sabatini’s comments were no doubt provocative, as for their wisdom, I will leave that to the public at large however, they were directed specifically at a hypothetical party who would engage in an unlawful act. I therefore do not feel it is within my authority to take official action.