Florida's First Lady Apologizes for Reading About Miami Prostitutes to Fifth-Grade Class

Unlike her husband, Gov. Rick Scott, Florida's first lady, Ann Scott, has mostly avoided controversy and the headlines. Unfortunately, an embarrassing mixup led the low-key first lady to read a passage from a book to fifth-graders that described Miami's Biscayne Boulevard in the '60s, complete with descriptions of prostitutes, porno theaters, and drug addicts.

Whoops. 

Ann Scott showed up at a school in Hillsborough County yesterday to celebrate the students' literary achievements. She often reads to schoolchildren across the state, and while sitting down with two fifth-grade classes, she read from Patrick D. Smith's Florida classic, A Land Remembered

The novel follows the fictional MacIveys for three generations as they rise from a poor family that emigrated from Georgia to become wealthy Florida pioneers. It touches on more than a century of Florida history between 1858 and 1968. 

It's widely taught in schools across the state. But apparently Scott and her staff didn't know that students usually read a two-volume edition specially edited for young people. She read from the original version meant for adults. 

The adult version begins at the end of the family's tale in 1968, when one of the last of the MacIveys has his Rolls-Royce driver take him through Key Biscayne, Miami Beach, and Miami. 

The two characters discuss Miami history, including a quick telling of the story of Julia Tuttle, the mother of Miami, as they drive off the causeway that bears her name. 

"I'll bet ole Julia Tuttle would throw a tissy fit if she could see what this causeway leads to now," one of the characters quips. "She'd probably want her name off of it." 

But the conversation is also peppered with words like "bastard," "damnit," and "son-of-a-bitch." 

When the characters drive down Biscayne Boulevard, it takes on an even more adult tone:

They turned left again at the mainland, cruising down Biscayne Boulevard, its northern section jammed with more motels and junk food shops, service stations, massage parlors, porno movies, bars, adult book stores, the sidewalks empty in the early morning sun but teeming at night with prostitutes and junkies and winos and professional muggers. Then they came into the downtown business section of Miami, passing the MacIvey State Bank Building with the letters MCI across the front entrance, then Bayfront Park with more winos and junkies and panhandlers and muggers.

The book goes on to describe how the entire state of Florida was "born of violence." 

"You know, Arthur, I don't know why some folks was so shocked by the riot. Hell, this whole state was born of violence," one of the characters mutters. "You can't go anywhere without stepping on the skull of some man or animal that was killed. The whole damned place is littered with bones." 

That's maybe not the most "scandalous" thing ever read aloud, but it's certainly an awkward passage for the wife of a superconservative Republican governor to read to a group of public-school 10-year-olds. 

Naturally, someone complained, and Ann Scott's office was forced to issue an apology

"I am writing to sincerely apologize for any language that was not age-appropriate from the Florida classic A Land Remember, by Patrick D. Smith earlier today," she wrote. "As the mother and grandmother of two wonderful daughters and four grandsons, I would never want to cause any offense or concern for students or parents." 

It's likely Scott didn't know there are two versions of the book. The student version begins in the 1850s and leaves out the passage about prostitute-strewn Biscayne Boulevard. 


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