Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Mayor Dean Trantalis is doubtless a busy man, which is why I’m going to guess the case of Hemal Jhaveri didn’t show up on his radar.
Jhaveri, for those with short memories, was a sports media, race and inclusion editor for USA Today. After a mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, left 10 dead in March, Jhaveri tweeted “it’s always an angry white man. always.”
The shooter was a man and, one assumes, was angry. He was Middle Eastern, however. A guess like that should have cost Jhaveri her job no matter what, but the fact it was a wrong guess with cultural assumptions piled on top of it ended up getting her fired.
In a now-deleted, career-immolating post on Medium, Jhaveri wrote that “tweets which challenge white supremacy will be weaponized by bad faith actors” and said she faced “constant micro-aggressions and outright racist remarks from the majority white staff” during her time at USA Today.
All of this glazed over the main problem: In the midst of a tragedy, Jhaveri fell back on her liberal confirmation bias and wasn’t just wrong. Her error was culturally malignant and her apology, such as it was, made things worse.
Trantalis apparently wasn’t familiar with Jhaveri’s case. Apparently, he needed to learn the lesson personally.
“We know two individuals marching to celebrate inclusion and equality were struck by a vehicle,” Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a statement, according to NBC News. “One person has died and the other remains hospitalized.”
It’s easy to concede that, hearing the bare-bones facts of the situation, one can adorn it with horrible assumptions regarding the driver of the truck. Those mightn’t be correct assumptions, but I’ll totally cop to having made them myself when I saw news of the attack come over Twitter.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m a lowly scribe and I’m not dumb enough to broadcast those assumptions on social media or somewhere else, even if I could use them to score political points. I also wasn’t in a position, when it happened, to do more research on it.
I’m also definitely not the mayor of Fort Lauderdale — a city 10 miles south of Wilton Manors, where the incident occurred. I was thousands of miles away from the event; Trantalis witnessed it.
If I know enough to keep my mouth shut, then, Trantalis should definitely know this — particularly since he’s able to avail himself of information the vast majority of us wouldn’t be privy to. The fact we’re even discussing this should be a tipoff that he did nothing of the sort.
“This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT community,” Trantalis, a Democrat and Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay mayor, told WPLG-TV.
“This is exactly what it is. Hardly an accident. It was deliberate, it was premeditated, and it was targeted against a specific person. Luckily they missed that person, but unfortunately, they hit two other people.”
Trantalis did not name who that “specific person” was — although he mentioned earlier that the car carrying Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schutz, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, was narrowly missed by the truck.
BREAKING: At least 2 people have been hit by a truck at the beginning of the @WiltonManorsCty #Pride parade. @delarosaWPLG was only yards away at the time. He spoke with @DeanTrantalis. @WPLGLocal10 pic.twitter.com/CRRmGz0a12
— Ian Margol (@IanMargolWPLG) June 19, 2021
Guess how much of Trantalis’ statement about the incident being “hardly an accident” was true? If you went with anything above zero, you’d be wrong.
Let’s begin with the “terrorist attack against the LGBT community,” as Trantalis called it. Here’s video of the truck after it hit the individuals in question as it crashed into the Fort Lauderdale Garden Center.
Surveillance video shows a white pickup truck crashing through a fence and driving over several plants at the Fort Lauderdale Garden Center on NE 4th Ave. near NE 16th St. Seconds earlier, the vehicle hit two men at the pride parade, killing one and injuring the other. pic.twitter.com/H5Y1Nlf276
— Madeleine Wright (@MWrightWPLG) June 20, 2021
Note the flag flying from the truck bed; it doesn’t seem to bear the Focus on the Family logo or anything similarly problematic. And keep in mind, this is the truck that Mayor Trantalis told WPLG he saw with his own eyes.
Granted, this doesn’t rule out a terror attack, nor does it guarantee Trantalis saw the flag. At some point, though, he could have asked around. He’s the mayor of freaking Fort Lauderdale and this was a Fort Lauderdale-area pride parade; maybe this would have been the time to consult with police.
Given his position, they would likely have exercised all due alacrity when getting him timely information. Trantalis could have then told WPLG he would get back to them once he knew more. Trust me: They’ll wait.
Nope. “This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT community … It was deliberate, it was premeditated, and it was targeted against a specific person.”
So yes, predictably, none of this is true. The 77-year-old driver was a member of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus who had “ailments that prevented him from walking,” according to the AP.
The AP reported that when he was told he was next to go, he accelerated and slammed into the victims. The driver was taken into police custody but no charges were filed.
“Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver is also a part of the Chorus family. To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” chorus president Justin Knight said in a Sunday statement, according to NBC. He called the incident “an unfortunate accident.”
Here’s Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Paul Rolli — a man who, one might speculate, has yet to reach the upper strata of South Florida Democrat political life because he still believes in old-fashioned values like exercising due caution:
“The early investigation now indicates it looks like it was a tragic accident, but nobody’s saying finally what it is,” he told the AP.
“People were really distraught and some people were crying,” Rolli said. “I was getting phone calls from people I knew at the other end waiting for the parade saying, ‘Is this true? Is that true, do we have anything to worry about?’ You don’t know at that point.”
You don’t know — unless, of course, you’re Dean Trantalis. And it turns out he really didn’t know either. Trantalis corrected himself in a statement on Sunday, although not before heaping a word salad of other liberal platitudes involving LGBT safety on top of it.
“Last evening, at the start of what was to be a celebration of pride for the LGBT community and commemoration of our hard-won victories for equality, our community faced the worst of tragedies. The grief of our LGBT community — and greater Fort Lauderdale as a whole — is palpable,” Trantalis wrote in the statement posted to Twitter.
“I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events. It terrorized me and all around me. I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strong concerns about what transpired — concerns for the safety of my community. I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away.
“Law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job. As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control.”
My statement following yesterday’s events in Wilton Manors is below.
I want to thank our first responders for their efforts as police and medical personnel immediately attended to the scene. pic.twitter.com/lahwAQPO3C
— Mayor Dean J. Trantalis (@DeanTrantalis) June 20, 2021
That correction — not even an apology — is buried in the statement like a fossil from the Precambrian era. Also, a tip of the hat to “a picture is emerging,” which should join the “mistakes were made” pantheon of refrigerator-magnet stock phrases politicians assemble to avoid taking any blame for saying or doing something cretinous.
Also of note in that department: He didn’t even pull out the “I take full responsibility” line, so popular in predicaments where no one was apportioning blame to anyone else. We can’t even give Trantalis that much credit.
Unlike Jhaveri, Trantalis’ employers — the voters of Fort Lauderdale — can’t do anything until 2022, when he’s up for reelection. That can be a lifetime in local politics, which means a mayor who tried to pin an anti-gay “terror attack” on a man who turned out to be a 77-year-old member of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus may end up getting away with it.
Not only that, he can’t even bring himself to apologize. Absolutely heinous.
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