Friday, May 13, 2016

County Commission Candidate Fund Raises on False Accusations

The Tampa Bay Business Journal recently published an article written by TBBJ reporter Janelle Irwin titled: Anti-tax Tea Party aggressors target pro-transit candidate Brian Willis, campaign says. Irwin writes:
Brian Willis’s campaign is under attack – or so he’s describing to supporters. Billing himself the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 race’s only “serious transit supporter” fighting for increased transportation options on both sides of the Bay, Willis claims he’s fielding attacks from members of the Tea Party. 
“The attacks have been aggressive, but that just means they are afraid,” Willis wrote in an email to supporters asking for contributions to thwart the attacks.
This is plain and simple tabloid journalism with a provocative title. Throw out false claims and try to create guilt by association. This appears to be a PR stunt that Willis and his campaign orchestrated for his campaign fundraising.

In the original TBBJ post, Irwin admitted that Willis provides no evidence of such alleged attacks, those silly little details. 

The Eye spoke to Irwin this morning who said TBBJ is expanding their coverage to include politics and she was hired to do political reporting. She said Willis's claims were newsworthy. Irwin wanted to know if I could prove that Willis's claims were baseless. That is not my responsibility that is hers as a journalist to investigate accusations before publishing such article. 

After speaking to Irwin this morning, Irwin updated the article with this information:
Willis didn't specifically mention what the alleged attacks were or who they came from. He later explained the reference was to a WordPress website titled "Brian Willis Hates You." The site chronicles various pro-transit statements made by Willis and makes the argument that Willis's statements illustrate he hates people who own cars. 
"The reason we phrased our email the way we did was that we didn't want to repeat the lies," Willis explained of his vague reference to the Tea Party in his campaign email. 
The website doesn't list any authors or site facilitators and does not specifically reference any Tea Party allegiance.
Sharon Calvert, a Tampa Tea Party activist, said she has nothing to do with any alleged interaction with Willis, but wouldn't say whether she could speak for the entire Tea Party. 
"We couldn't care less about Brian Willis," Calvert said. "He's making claims that he can’t back up and he’s using the media for a fundraising stunt."
The website Willis refers to is some anonymous blogpost that we found out about only AFTER we pushed back with TBBJ on Willis's baseless claims accusing the Tea Party of attacking him. Only after Irwin published this article and received push back did she go back to Willis and Willis provided her a link to this anonymous blogpost. Again, it is up to the journalist to investigate the claims before publishing such an article not ask those falsely accused to provide evidence the claims are false. 

Willis was a Founder of Connect Tampa Bay, our local transit advocacy group, who were big supporters of the Greenlight Pinellas boondoggle. He served on Connect Tampa Bay's Board until he resigned when he filed to run for office. 

The Eye posted here back in October 2014 about Brian Willis holding a press conference representing Connect Tampa Bay. As we reported, Willis and his accomplices were reduced to whining to the media to publicly name call their opposition, NoTaxForTracks Pinellas. 
 Greenlight Pinellas 2014 Press Conference:
Brian Willis is in the middle  
Brian Willis continues his false accusation tactics now as a county commission candidate. 

I did speak to Alexis Muellner today, editor of Tampa Bay Business Journal, and he informed me that Irwin had updated the story (as referenced above) and understood my concerns and issues. Irwin should have investigated Willis's claims further and contacted those Willis was accusing first before ever publishing such article. 

As I told Muellner, the real newsworthy story is that county commission candidate Brian Willis is making claims in a fundraising letter he cannot back up and he attempts to use guilt by association to raise money for his campaign.

Willis is a candidate for the District 6 countywide seat being vacated by Kevin Beckner. Regardless of anyone's ideology or party affiliation, is this the type of person who should represent the entire county on the Hillsborough County Commission?

1 comment:

  1. Willis is just another in a long line (Beth Leytham, Buckhorn, et al)of people that offer straw-man arguments and then act like the "savior." Integrity-challenged is the best way to describe Willis and the others. They never want to enter into an intellectual fact-based discussion because they lose every time. Tim Curtis