Gary Stein: Jackson has a (bad) way with words

Only Jesse Jackson could turn me into a Rick Scott fan.

Yep, Jesse has done it. Rick Scott, you da man.

All because of what's happened since the George Zimmerman verdict, and the ensuing protests nationally, particularly the sit-in at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

Since the verdict, emotions have been taut on both sides. There are threats of boycotts. There has been plenty of tension.

And into all of this, Jesse Jackson rides in and flings his usual race-baiting verbal bombs, just to make sure the situation becomes even more divisive and tense than it already is.

Last week, the Great Attention Seeker brought his mouth to Tallahassee and referred to Florida as "the Selma of our time." He called Florida the "Apartheid State."

And he even likened Scott to Alabama's famed segregationist governor, George Wallace.

All of this from the same Jesse Jackson who, to me at least, will always be linked to "Hymietown." If you are too young to remember what that's all about, just Google it.

Rick Scott, bless his soul, couldn't take it any more. He said Jackson should apologize to Floridians for his comments.

"It is unfortunate that (Jackson) would come to Florida to insult Floridians and divide our state at a time when we are striving for unity and healing," Scott said in a release.

I never thought I'd write this, but good for you, Rick Scott.

Yes, Florida has plenty of tragic episodes in its racial past. And yes, in recent years, Scott and his tea party-loving legislature have done all they can to make it tougher for minorities to vote.

But apartheid state? Selma? George Wallace? Really?

We don't need direction from Jesse Jackson or his fellow microphone hound, Al Sharpton.

We don't need them coming into Florida and lighting a match to an already red-hot situation. We don't need them tossing around racially-charged phrases just so they become the lead story on the 6 o'clock news.

And, at least when it comes to Jesse — who has refused to apologize for his words— it would be nice if he got his facts straight.

Like a lot of people — of all colors — Jackson wants change in Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. No problem there.

But to make his point a lot more dramatic, and sound good on TV, Jackson recently told CNN that homicides against blacks have tripled since Stand Your Ground came into existence in 2005 under Gov. Jeb Bush.

Not so fast, says the Truth-O-Meter of PolitiFact Florida, courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald.

According to the Truth-O-Meter, Jackson's claims about homicides of blacks tripling since Stand Your Ground became law rates a solid "False." In fact, PolitiFact claims Florida Department of Law Enforcement data show the number of black homicide victims in Florida barely changed from 2006 to 2012: the number went from 524 to 532.

By Jesse Jackson's math, that's "tripling." Hey, it makes for a great sound bite on television.

Listen, I know Jackson has done some good things. He is charismatic, and has brought needed attention to issues that might have been ignored by the public.

But he has enough murder and mayhem and black-on-black crime in his own Chicago (229 murders this year, and counting) to keep him busy, without coming to Florida and insulting the state while looking for a TV camera.

But I do have an idea that might be of value here.

Rick Scott wants an apology, but since Jesse Jackson has been talking about boycotts of Florida, I have a much better thought.

Jesse, show some true leadership. Boycott Florida. Please.

Gary Stein can be reached at gstein@sunsentinel.com, or 954-356-4616. On Twitter@SSEditorial.

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