After days in the center of a tornado-strength vortex of criticism for his initial, in-the-heat-of-the-moment description of a horrific car crash at the weekend LGBT Pride Parade,
But, he said Monday, he was accurately reflecting what he and others felt.
“What happened at that moment, everyone who was in that immediate vicinity all felt terrorized, as much as I did. And I happened to be the one who articulated the feelings that everyone shared at that moment. And I regret describing the situation as a terrorist attack. But I do not regret having those feelings, those feelings that everyone feared and felt. And those were real,” Trantalis said Monday in a telephone interview with the
“So many things ran through my head at that moment. And all I did was feel that the impact of that terrible moment. ... The feeling was unlike any I’ve ever had before,” Trantalis said.
Trantalis, Fort Lauderdale’s first out LGBT mayor, was among many elected officials on hand to participate in the parade. Within minutes of the accident — before anyone knew any facts other than a horrible crash took place — Trantalis was speaking on camera to a television reporter, offering his theory that it was “clearly a terrorist act against the LGBT community.”
Asked if he’d be more restrained in a future crisis, Trantalis said he hopes never again has to face such a situation. “I’m a human being. I hope that my emotions can be more restrained, and I usually am, but I’ve never felt the impact of a crisis as much as I seriously [did] at that moment Saturday evening.”
“Should I not speak what’s on my mind? I think people appreciate the fact that I speak what’s on my mind. But I also within 24 hours realized that the evidence showed something different, and I was quick to retract what I said. It wasn’t like I doubled down and questioned the investigation of the police or the
The assessment from the city’s top elected leader ricocheted around social media and played prominently in a range of initial news accounts. And it was wrong. Within 24 hours, police corrected the record. It was a tragic accident, but not intentional.
On Sunday, Trantalis corrected the record, but that didn’t tamp down criticism of his performance. Especially on social media, the blowback has been harsh.
“His reaction was reckless,” said
Sitting at home in
She added that it’s understandable to “jump to the conclusion” that it could have been a deliberate attack, given the escalating political rhetoric in recent years that has at times turned violent. But, she said, “considering the fact that he is the mayor, he should have chosen his words a little more carefully. He should not have said what he said.”
Given what had just happened,
“It was a very emotional time. And given we’re in this political climate, it was a logical conclusion to get to, to think that it might be a deliberate attempt, because it just happened so suddenly,” Gaskill said.
“It was terrifying. … “I don’t blame the mayor for his remarks. Many of us thought the same thing at the moment,” he said. “I think he was speaking from the heart, in a very emotional time.”
Social media, where there is never nuance, was filled with condemnation of Trantalis.
The Reaboi tweet helped fuel something that often happens in modern-day politics: an article on the
Much of the social media response emanated far from
Restraint from others
With the notable recent exception of former President
“It’s important that political leaders exercise additional caution because they’ll be looked at as credible sources. Not only because of his position as an elected official, but also because he was there” giving him extra credibility, said
He said the need for caution is especially important in an era when information and misinformation spreads quickly online. There is a difference between intentionally lying and unintentionally getting the facts wrong, Scacco said. “Regardless of his intent, he perpetuated the spread of information.”
Trantalis isn’t a neophyte. He was elected mayor in
The mayor’s initial statements were striking in contrast to the other elected officials who also were in proximity to the accident.
In a Twitter post about an hour after the incident, State Agriculture Commissioner
families.” Fried is a candidate for the 2022 Democratic nomination for governor.
Deutch confined his comments to Twitter, and not until more than 2½ hours later. He addressed “the horror that we saw” and said he was “mourning life taken & praying for injured & families” and “intensely grateful for police who sprung to action before us to save lives.”
More than three hours later,
Scacco said their responses fit the model for elected leaders. “The individuals who had more measured responses initially, what that does is that essentially allows the facts to bear out and then the elected official doesn’t have to backtrack in case it doesn’t bear out.”
Rogers also said Fried, Deutch and
Anthony Man can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @browardpolitics
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