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Columns

As Bill Nelson Lags, The New York Times Turns into His PR Firm

August 8, 2018 - 6:00am
Bill Nelson
Bill Nelson

There are certain signs that indicate a politician’s campaign is mired. Sometimes they change messaging, other times a media blitz occurs -- or maybe they become particularly vocal and ever-present with a breaking news item. These are signs a candidate has recognized a need to become more visible to the voters.

Then you have Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who finds himself in a notably unfortunate position.

How do we know? Because the biggest newspaper in the country felt the need to step in and “introduce” to his constituents this politician -- who is in his fifth decade of service. It doesn't take a poli-sci Master's degree to ferret out trouble when a sitting senator with 18 years of incumbency needs a coming-out party in The New York Times.

There is no lack of mirth to see the Democratic senator, entrenched in D.C. since the 1970s, announced with the headline, “Meet Bill Nelson, the Under-The-Radar Senate Candidate.” But fret not, The Times is very dutiful in delivering all the introductory information about Florida’s congressional cypher. 

There is sound reason for this cavalry charge from The Grey Lady -- Rick Scott has been trending ahead of the senator in the polls, and this interrupts the narrative of an inevitable Blue Wave in November.

Reporter Patricia Mazzei delivers more than 1,500 words to illustrate the man who has been providing leadership in the Sunshine State for decades. While the newspaper included a piece in early April concerning Rick Scott’s official announcement that he was running for the Senate seat, Bill Nelson was quoted in the Scott article nearly as often as the governor. Here, it is all Nelson, and afterward, darn if you aren't still left with a fleeting impression of the man.

One of the more notable passages involves Nelson making a surprise visit to the second largest facility housing immigrant minors in the country, located in Homestead. “Mr. Nelson made headlines when he led an effort to inspect a large shelter for migrant children in South Florida,” writes Mazzei. A comical line for those in Florida who saw firsthand: The main reason there were any headlines was, this “spontaneous” visit managed to include dozens of members of the media he and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had dragged along.

It certainly was not the result of Nelson discovering anything objectionable in the facility. After facility administrators denied him entry that day, Nelson went on one of his muted tirades. Without raising his voice, he mentioned how he just learned of this facility, how he was dismayed at the policy leading to this reality, and how he feared that over 1,000 children separated from parents may be sleeping on the floors.

Embarrassingly, every one of the senator’s proclamations was unwound in a matter of days. The immigration policy that so dismayed him? He voted for it. His surprise at the existence of the facility? It has been operational and housing immigrant youths since 2016. Yes, that means the practice of housing these children right where Nelson stood was in place during the Obama administration. Further, Rick Scott had sent notice of the facility opening to Nelson’s office that year.

More than those details, the dramatics behind the visit also dissipated quickly. While this puff piece mentions how headlines were created with Nelson’s arrival, the story disappeared days later when press and politicos were invited in to tour the facility. The conditions showed no kids in cages eating gruel from dog bowls. It is a dorm-like atmosphere, where the kids are given a week’s worth of clothes, three square meals, and spend their days attending classes and engaging in activities.

And only a few dozen of the 1,175 children were cases of separation, as 95 percent had come to this country unaccompanied by parents. These details were reported by many in the media, including ... the New York Times. In fact, one of their reporters gave a detailed account of the inside of the facility -- Nelson's puff-piece writer, the same Patricia Mazzei. (Here is her Twitter thread describing the conditions she saw.)

A primary motivator for Nelson’s visit was his need to shore up his standing with a core group of voters in the state -- Latinos. Scott has been showing stronger than expected polling among that demographic, which is something Nelson had come to depend on. He is based in Orlando, home of one of the thickest concentrations of Puerto Rican transplants in the state. 

As I had looked into things regarding these new Boricua arrivals, the political decisions of the voting block is not assured. While many assume there is an allegiance to the Democratic party, which is favored on the island, once they have arrived on the mainland, many Puerto Rican transplants have become Independent voters, due in some large part to the island's government being mired in an economic crisis. That has been an original cause of the flight of many residents. 

Rick Scott made a name for himself as a regular presence amid the devastation of Hurricane Maria. He visited the island on many relief trips and instituted policies to aid those who came to the state in the aftermath. As a result, he has some name recognition among the new voters, a group Nelson once had regarded as his own.

The challenges facing Bill Nelson on the campaign are evident, but they are not the kind of challenges you expect to see a candidate facing after spending three full terms in office. For The New York Times to feel the need to introduce the veteran politician to his own voting base is a revealing detail.

Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.

Comments

If you ask the average voter to name an accomplishment of Billy Nelson the answer would be silence. Nelson, I believe did not want to run but was forced into this because the bench for democrats is thin. He looks disinterested in running, aloof and downright old! Does he have fire in his belly for a fourth term? I don’t see it.

Ah, yes . . . . the Senate Race . . . . . funny that the Scott supporting ads we see are attacking Nelson for issues that are either mainly due to Scott's failed leadership (e.g. damaging algae, water quality pollution) . . . . . or refer to acts that the GOP is mainly to blame for (federal budget impasses, shutting down government) . . . . . . . . . funny you can't bring yourself to attack Scott's ongoing mis-directions and blatant lies . . . . . . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . .

So many Socialist comments. Do any of you "Lefties" know that FLORIDA is the NINTH largest economy in the WORLD? Think Nelson did that? Let the tired old Professional Politician retire in peace. All of you "Scott Haters" pick and choose what to SLAM him with... he works with Legislature and Private Industry to do what's possible.

who cares about TreSantis. This is about the US Senate...

The most "notably unfortunate" thing around here is that 'Shouldabenafelon' Scott has been the worst governor this state has had in many years ... and that the carpetbagging slug is now running for another political office in Florida. Like Trump, Scott is apparently a darling among the low-information voters.

Brad, seriously, you actually read the New York Times? I thought 'our dear leader' decreed that was fake news. And the photo of Nelson has John McCain in the background...surprised you would include it. Only puppets of Trump need apply for political office.

worst campaign ever. Scott has the crisis of the century unfolding right under his nose due to his deregulation and dike/dam disaster of green slime and this idiot has done nothing to capitalize on it. Save all that U.S. legislator crap and he should have done something. This is a Florida issue, created by an idiot Midwesterner that idiots like you on SSN voted for. This ain't Kansas skeletor...haul ass back to Kansas...

the "blue wave" in November is nothing more than political hype from Washington and New York. The 'blue wave' won't be blue at all but a much different color. People in Florida get to vote in this Senate race; not New Yorkers.

They both stink, what are the other choices.

Is anyone really surprised to see a liberal rag promote left wing interests? It has become so blatant that fair minded folks can see through the slimy veneer of the fourth estate. It gave birth to the "Fake News" movement and has caused non-socialists to view most media vehicles with ZERO credibility. Admittedly, the NYT retains good repurposing qualities. It still makes for great fish wrap.

Try again, Boris.

Tourism has always been Florida's golden goose. Ricky ripped both its' wings off with his assault on the environment in the search for a fast buck. No wonder despite all his money he's nearly tied with the stealthy but honorable Uncle Bill.

If the NY Times says ANYTHING about the "Ride-along-rocketeer-Zippy Nelson", you can rest assured that it's a "puff piece" designed to "blow smoke" up the nether regions of the country; it's what "The Grey Lady" has done ever since wayward Son "Punch" Salzberger inherited the "helm" from his Daddy; turned the dying and decrepid "catbox liner" into "a liberal-progressive newsletter" designed to pacify NY progressives into believing they are STILL the "center of the world",... When in reality, (in the "sick world" in which we currently live), New York is the place where the "rectal thermometer" is inserted to judge ill temperatures. One way to precisely apply aid to that "sickness" is to excise one of the country's long festering cancers: "Zippy Nelson", in order to "keep his fingers from any further touching of the buttons & switches of America"! ! ! CUT HIM LOOSE VOTERS... and watch how quickly the "special interest Lobbys" discover how useless Nelson REALLY is, and not worth nearly the largesse they have been asked, for his continued "shepherding" of them through the "halls & offices" of THE PEOPLES CONGRESS !

So, the newcomer troll from NYC really prefers the candidate who founded and was CEO of Columbia Hospitals corporation (HCA) which admittedly defrauded Medicare and Medicaid out of some $2.8 billion??? The troll actually calls Nelson a "festering cancer" and advises real Floridians to vote for a guy who should have been a felon instead of a governor??? Some advice, "C Breeze"! Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle!

save it fat boy, head back to NY and your home mullet wrapper. Get a job while your up there tiny and then stay...

I’m sorry, I must have missed your story on FOX News becoming Ron DeSantis’ personal PR Department. Or perhaps that is ok with you, it’s just Nelson that you don’t want to get any media coverage or favoritism from a media outlet. Either call them ALL out, or shut up. Your bias is showing!

DeSantis is running for Governor. This was about the Senate race, and the ramifications in D.C.

The point remains the same. You have nothing to say about FOX News becoming DeSantis’ PR Department, but you have a problem with coverage Nelson gets.

That has no bearing on the Senate race.

So the point stands that you have nothing to say about others doing the same thing.

I made no comments about the Broward school board race, nor the Miami Brach Commisipb seats either. How long of a list of unrelated races would you prefer?

As long of a list as it takes to show your bias when it comes to calling out what you claim is wrong. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong no matter who does it, not just the people you don’t like. Now, can we expect that hard-hitting piece on DeSantis’ PR machine at FOX News??

You seem to struggle that I was writing about the Senate race. So let me clarify that I was writing about the Senate race.

Nelson looks like he passed away 15 years ago and you all are voting for a robot built with the same Russian technology they used to preserve Lenin's body all these years.

Nelson's campaign has just started as he has been saving his money for when it counts, the next 3 months...……….And in them Nelson will just remind everyone of the things Scott has done to Floridians...………….. Not to mention taking on Mr personality in debates...………….Or vids of him not answering questions...….Here is something to enjoy if they let it through from FOX news. https://www.yahoo.com/news/awkward-watch-sean-hannity-keep-072212749.html

Patricia Mazzei is, and always has been, a democratic operative. While she was at the Miami Herald, she became the darling for the paper as she learned to write campaign materials for South Florida Dems in the form of a "news report". Like Marc Caputo, she may be respected by media elites and political insiders, but for the average Miami Herald reader, and for the average citizen in Florida, she is just another part of the problem. She will fit right in with Sarah Jeong and those "balanced journalists" at the NYT.

So if Mazzei is a Democratic operative, does that make this Slager dude her Republican counterpart? Is Nelson not supposed to get any coverage? Is Mazzei not supposed to write about something she knows, FLORIDA politics? Give me a break here!

Thank you, for placing me at the same level as The NY Times.

Is that what this is about? Your jealousy of Patricia Mazzei???

Anonymous, Are you the talent agent of record for small town talents like Mazzei and Caputo? You must be eating spam if you are living off percentages of the contracts these writers have.

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