Political group makes five points about Jeb Bush's record
A Facebook meme from a political group made so many simultaneous assertions about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, we couldn’t put them all on the Truth-O-Meter.
That doesn’t mean we can’t still examine the quintet of claims, however.
Ultraviolet, which describes itself as a community "mobilized to fight sexism and expand women’s rights," posted an image labeled "5 things you should know about Jeb Bush" to its Facebook page on June 15, 2015. A few days later, the group added a link to information backing up its claims.
PolitiFact Florida wanted to review this information for ourselves. We found that some were largely factual, but at least two had significant inaccuracies. (One was wrong on Facebook, but has been corrected on the group’s website.)
Let’s take Ultraviolet’s talking points one by one:
1. Appointed a guardian for the fetus of a rape survivor: In May 2003, Bush ordered state lawyers to ask the Orange County Circuit Court in Orlando to appoint a representative for the fetus of a mentally handicapped woman in state care. The 22-year-old woman, who was severely developmentally disabled, had been raped while living in a group home and was six months pregnant.
Bush did not actually appoint a guardian, but wanted a judge in the case to consider it. No party in the case had suggested aborting the fetus. We rated this statement Mostly False in a separate Truth-O-Meter fact-check.
The judge did not consider the issue, but left the woman in state care. The Florida Department of Children and Families had already asked the court to appoint a guardian once the baby was born, which happened in August 2003.
The request sparked controversy about whether a fetus deserved representation in the womb, something the state Supreme Court ruled "clearly improper" in 1989. The issue went before an appeals court. In January 2004, the three-judge panel ruled against Bush in a 2-1 decision, finding that a fetus was not a person under Florida law and appointing a guardian would be improper.
2. Signed into law a bill requiring single moms to publish their sexual history: First of all, we will note that at some point after June 15, Ultraviolet changed the wording of this statement on its website, restating that Bush said he "refused to veto a bill" that required this. That is more accurate, but the original is still circulating on Facebook with the original wording, and it is partly wrong.
This item refers to a bill often known as the "Scarlet Letter" law, which started as a 2001 reworking of Florida’s adoption regulations. The Legislature that year passed a bill that required single mothers who didn’t know who was the father of their child publish a newspaper notice prior to putting the child up for adoption.
The notice had to run once a week for a month, and had to list a detailed description of all the possible fathers, plus dates and cities where a sexual encounter resulting in conception may have taken place. This was originally designed to alert the child’s potential father the child was up for adoption, but amounted to forcing the mother to publish her sexual history in her hometown newspaper multiple times.
The bill passed the House and Senate by a wide margin. Bush objected to several parts of the bill in a letter to Secretary of State Katherine Harris -- the bill’s own sponsor, Sen. Skip Campbell, D-Tamarac, lamented the final bill -- but instead of using his veto power to kill the legislation, Bush let the bill pass without signing it.
He said he had expected legislators to fix the notice requirement’s wording (Campbell had told him as much, he said). But a court did that for him in 2003 when it ruled the law unconstitutional for being an invasion of privacy. Bush signed the law’s repeal that year.
3. Hired a staffer who publicly called women "sluts": On Feb. 9, 2015, Bush’s Right To Rise PAC announced they had hired Hipster.com co-founder Ethan Czahor as its new chief technology officer. But the Internet found dozens of years-old tweets from his Twitter account disparaging women and homosexuals. Offending tweets were being deleted from the account, but not before Buzzfeed shared them, including several that did refer to women as "sluts." Czahor resigned on Feb. 10.
4. Said low-income women should "get their life together and find a husband": Ultraviolet attributed this quote to a 2003 Washington Post profile of Bush, but CNN put the comment in context earlier this month.
During his first gubernatorial run in 1994, Bush pushed for limits on a federal welfare program known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which ended in 1996.
"If people are mentally and physically able to work, they should be able to do so within a two-year period," he said. "They should be able to get their life together and find a husband, find a job, find other alternatives in terms of private charity or a combination of all three."
Bush defended those comments by saying that same year, saying, "How you get on welfare is by not having a husband in the house -- let's be honest here. Men are not on welfare, that's the point. That's the point -- men are not on AFDC."
A state official had refuted that, by the way, noting that a small percentage of men did get get benefits from the program, as did some families with both men and women as heads of the household. We rated Ultraviolet’s statement Mostly True in a separate fact-check.
5. Used taxpayer money to promote anti-abortion groups: The group pointed to a Salon story that highlighted Bush signed into law a 1999 bill allowing the state to be the first in the country to sell "Choose Life" specialty license plates. These plates allowed Floridians to pay a fee to help fund so-called crisis pregnancy centers. Bush’s Democratic predecessor Lawton Chiles had vetoed the plates a year earlier.
The centers provide pregnant women with services but do not mention abortion as an option, steering clients to paths to put their unwanted children up for adoption. The centers, usually run by religious organizations, have been criticized by abortion rights groups for giving out false information about reproductive health care and abortions.
In 2005, Bush proposed spending millions on a pregnancy counseling hotline that steered women to these crisis pregnancy centers, which were opposed to abortion. After a $4 million launch, the hotline continued to get $2 million budgeted per year for these services for the rest of Bush’s tenure.