I probably should have called Peter Schorsch out a long time ago. But in a sea of liberal Tallahassee media who show Sunshine State News nothing but clenched teeth, Schorsch occasionally threw us a bone. So I let a lot slide.
Peter has a real talent for dropping a pretty compliment, then a sentence or two later, smacking you around. Mostly, not always, I blew off the smacking around and preferred to believe the compliment.
I also blew off the times he and his team lifted chunks of our stories but failed to link them to SSN.
I blew off the times he rapped my knuckles for upsetting one of his paid clients, which he always denied was one of his paid clients.
I blew off the vicious tweets -- social media is wasted on me anyway.
And I told our staff over the years to ignore Peter's taunts, find a way to take the high road.
Looking back, I realize that was all wrong. I was pretending -- maybe even hoping -- we were friends. We were not then, certainly are not now.
That wasn't a bone St. Peter was throwing, it was pure BS and I shouldn't ignore any of it. Peter is ethically challenged. He's a bully. And ever since the first conversation I had with him, when he told me, "I'm not really a journalist," as if that gives him carte blanche to color outside the lines in this profession, I should have corrected him. Certainly he pretends to be a journalist, he plays at being one -- for what the rest of the world can see, he is one. And in my book, that obligates him to clean up his act.
The Wednesday morning trick he pulled on Leslie Wimes is nothing new but it's a case in point. Printing lies to hurt the people who get the best of him or his clients is de rigeur for this man who boasts his website has "the largest political reporting footprint in the state."
Democratic consultant Sean Phillippi wrote a column for The Florida Squeeze that its editors pulled off their website "for failure to meet editorial standards." It accused Leslie of being a Republican plant at Sunshine State News; however, the Squeeze said "... it could have been read to assert facts not in evidence impugning Ms. Wimes' professional integrity ..." I thought they acted with responsibility and with conscience.
Peter saw an opportunity to do what bullies do -- hurt a controversial Democrat and ingratiate himself among his Florida Democratic Party pals -- or maybe he just wanted to hurt somebody SSN likes but he doesn't -- or maybe he has a thing about women who can get more attention than he can. After all, Leslie's last column for SSN started the conversation that removed Debbie Wasserman Schultz from the Blue Gala stage. Could Peter do that?
Personally, I think if Leslie wanted St. Peter to print one of her columns, he would fall at her feet.
So, what he did was run Phillippi's column anyway because "readers of The Florida Squeeze, Florida Politics, and all other political websites in Florida deserve to know what is at the core of the controversy."
Yes, apparently there's a controversy.
The headline on the column Peter ran -- and here's the real lie -- "The op-ed Leslie Wimes apparently doesn't want you to read."
Peter treated Leslie as if she threatened the Squeeze -- take Phillippi's column down, or else. Yet, he knew she never made such a request/demand. The editors told him so.
He's done the same thing to me -- deliberately twisted the truth. After a story I wrote in January, he made it sound as if a complaint from a Charlie Crist constituent came from me instead of the source I named and quoted directly -- and for once, I fired back a response.
Most of all, I haven't forgotten Peter's attack on Allison Nielsen of our staff -- all the time he spent on social media during the legislative session trying to belittle and marginalize her.
Why? Because he offered her a job and she turned him down? No, I think it's more likely Peter was only doing what bullies do. First he dropped her a pretty compliment, then he went after her family on Twitter and finally he tweeted out a poll, "Who had the bigger meltdown on Sine Die, Jack Latvala or Allison Nielsen?" When I compared him to a stalker, he said he wasn't doing anything wrong: "Why can't debating just be called that?"
The poll is still up, Peter never took it down, never apologized to a reporter he had tried to humiliate. No class.
One last word about Leslie: She isn't paid to write columns for Sunshine State News. She chooses us. She is a proud, outspoken, independent Democratic woman who has a pretty solid handle on what drives votes in the black community. We have cherished our relationship with her because in serving the interests of the African-American community -- in working as hard as she can to reform her party -- Leslie has taught our readers, most of them mainstream and conservative Republicans, the uncomfortable truth about how we fail an important and undercounted segment of Florida.
But Peter knows this. In our different ways, Leslie and I have both written it enough times. He can't accept it or doesn't want to. Leslie must be a Republican plant.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith