Florida House Speaker Should Resign After Running Most Racist Ad in Recent History

via YouTube

In a sane, moral, or just world, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran would be forced to resign for the advertisement his political action committee just released. It's that bad. Honestly, he should resign anyway.

The ad is basically a ripoff of D.W. Griffith's 1915 pro-Ku Klux Klan film Birth of a Nation, in which a man in blackface attempts to rape a virginal white woman, who ultimately commits suicide to avoid the assault. Corcoran's Watchdog PAC either loves the film or, likelier, is too stupid to see the similarities between it and the ad the PAC released this week. The clip shows a scary "immigrant" shooting a frightened, young, and helpless white woman. Corcoran then hops on-camera to warn that if undocumented immigrants are allowed to remain in Florida, our white daughters will be murdered!

The ad directly references the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle, who was shot in San Francisco by a homeless undocumented immigrant who'd been transferred to the city to stand trial for a decades-old marijuana arrest and was acquitted of murdering Steinle. For extremely obvious, skin-color-related reasons, the right has been obsessed with the case for years and claims it's evidence that undocumented people must be deported.

Corcoran is technically running the ad to promote HB 9, a doomed "sanctuary city" crackdown he's pushing. (The Senate version of his bill has already stalled, though, thanks to opposition from Miami-area Republicans.) But in reality, most political observers expect Corcoran to announce a run for governor in 2018 and assume the ad is a first step toward that goal.

"This could have happened to any family, anywhere," Corcoran says in the clip. "Incredibly, some Tallahassee politicians want to make Florida a sanctuary state. Under my watch, Florida will never become a sanctuary state." Corcoran also noted that the Steinle verdict made him worry for his own (white) daughter named Kate.

New Times
asked the House speaker's spokesperson, a human with the actual name "Fred Piccolo," how Corcoran can possibly defend the ad he just appeared in. (We asked that verbatim.) Despite the fact that Piccolo has himself sent out news releases touting Corcoran's support for HB 9, he refused to respond, stating it would be difficult to do so while complying with laws separating political campaigns and legislative work.

A spokesperson for the PAC, Taylor Budowich, also did not respond to an email from New Times.

Leaving aside the hilariously racist imagery of the ad, Corcoran's basic argument is junk: Immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than the American population at large. On the whole, the evidence actually suggests sanctuary policies make cities safer. Local cops even like sanctuary policies because they help encourage immigrants to cooperate with police instead of running from them.

Moreover, the vast majority of undocumented people in the United States have fled from Central and South American nations destroyed by the U.S. War on Drugs or other forms of American meddling: Death squads that have patrolled Guatemala and El Salvador, for example, received active training and support from the States.

Plus, Corcoran is intentionally misrepresenting the Steinle case. Her killer was a nonviolent criminal brought to San Francisco on a decades-old marijuana charge and then dumped onto the street after prosecutors quickly realized the case was too old to be tried. He was almost certainly mentally ill, either found or stole a gun (that point is in dispute), and claims he shot Steinle accidentally. A jury agreed last year and acquitted him of murder. The verdict enraged a certain cohort of Fox News viewers despite the fact the Steinle case is an extreme outlier when it comes to crimes committed by immigrants.

More important, Corcoran is being willfully misleading about what "sanctuary" communities actually do. So-called sanctuary communities still prosecute crimes: If an undocumented person commits assault or murder, that person is still arrested, tried in court, and possibly punished.

What sanctuary cities actually do is way more complicated than what Corcoran says. The cities simply refuse to hold immigrants in local jails so that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can come pick them up and place them in deportation proceedings. When someone is arrested, almost always for a petty crime or traffic infraction, nonsanctuaries check to see if ICE has placed a "detainer" on that person. If such a detainer exists, local cities hold immigrants in jail for up to 48 hours — even if they have not been convicted of a crime. Courts have repeatedly ruled that this practice is unconstitutional, but Corcoran's HB 9 would force Florida municipalities to comply anyway.

According to the Miami Herald, Watchdog PAC has spent $95,560 to run the ad more than 700 times on Fox News channels in North and Central Florida. The Herald also quoted a University of South Florida immigration sociologist who said the "data doesn't support" the claims Corcoran is making about immigrants.

Multiple Florida politicians have criticized Corcoran for the ad. Congressional candidate and sitting Miami state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez called the ad "the worst kind of race-baiting and fear-mongering" and demanded the ad be taken down immediately.
Earlier today, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum called the ad "vile" and "everything that's wrong with politics in the age of Trump." He's running for governor as a Democrat, so, naturally, Corcoran responded by doubling down and claiming Gillum wants to welcome murderers to Florida:
Corcoran has pretty much always been a massive asshole. Earlier this month, he cheerled a Department of Justice plan to potentially prosecute West Palm Beach for acting as a so-called sanctuary. He launched an attack this year on the American Civil Liberties Union and last year threatened to ban all refugees from entering Florida. (As Fabiola Santiago notes in the Herald, he's also a self-loathing immigrant, having been born and spent a good piece of his childhood in Canada.)

The House speaker also thanked Donald Trump for instituting his so-called Muslim ban last year. Corcoran's policies are racist, and in a just world, this type of conduct would end his career. Instead, he might become governor.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.