Florida is a pretty red state these days. It has precisely one Democrat elected to statewide office, which is usually an indicator of the state’s politics. The sole left-leaning voice is Sen. Bill Nelson. He’s the state’s longest-serving official and reportedly has connections with law enforcement.
That didn’t do him a damn bit of good when he started sharing bogus information about a Florida shooting.
The state’s longest-serving elected official, a man who has spent decades building connections with law enforcement agencies and lawmakers from both parties, is a go-to source for information during big events like Hurricane Irma and the Parkland school shooting.
But Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat spread wrong information after the Parkland shooting, and now he’s spreading wrong information about a shooting in Liberty City that claimed the lives of two young people and wounded two more.
In a tweet on Sunday night, Nelson cited a Democratic state representative and said “apparently assault weapons [were] used” in the Liberty City shooting.
Just got off the phone with State Rep. Kionne McGhee. Several people dead in Liberty City. Apparently assault weapons used.
— Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) April 9, 2018
But on Monday, Miami police said handguns, not assault-style weapons, were used in the shooting.
The shooting, on the eve of Gov. Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate announcement, became a political flashpoint in South Florida.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, took a shot at the governor, asking “before you make your big ‘announcement’ tomorrow, who’s going to show up for our community?” Student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tweeted information about the shooting to hundreds of thousands of followers.
Nelson’s mistaken announcement that the Liberty City shooter used an assault weapon is tinged with politics. Nelson has constantly advocated for a ban on assault-style weapons like the AR-15 rifle used in the Parkland shooting, while Scott does not support an assault weapons ban.
When asked to explain why he spread misinformation on Sunday, Nelson deferred blame.
“That was from Kionne. That was Kionne’s impression,” Nelson said, referring to state Rep. Kionne McGhee. “It was information from somebody right on the scene and I think people are entitled to that information.” McGhee did not respond to a request for comment.
But Nelson didn’t bother to check because the information was what he wanted to hear. Typical.
You see, if the killer had screamed “Allahu akbar!” before the attack, what do you want to bet that Nelson would be telling people not to rush to judgment? Wouldn’t people be entitled to that information too?
The reality is that Nelson fell victim to confirmation bias. He got information that conformed to what he wanted to hear, thus latched onto it until it was shown to be false. It happens to all of us.
But Nelson, like so many other anti-gun politicians, doesn’t see it that way. They shrug, maybe pass a little blame, and then go on like nothing ever happened. They refuse to see anything they did as wrong because, in their mind, it isn’t. They’re still serving their “higher calling” of destroying the Second Amendment.
For him, that’s a feature, not a bug.
Don’t expect better of Nelson going forward, either.