Opponent Holly Benson said that "Just because you're poor doesn't mean you're unhealthy, it just means you have a lot more time to go running."
Pam Bondi on Thursday, July 15th, 2010 in a campaign mail piece.
Benefit of being unemployed: You have more time to exercise, Holly Benson says
Pam Bondi, a former Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney now running for attorney general, is playing up her courtroom experience and life outside of politics in a new mailer hitting doorsteps of potential Republican voters.
The mailer is heavy on self-praise, calling Bondi a "proven conservative," a "hands-on prosecutor" and a "legal expert." Those aren't claims PolitiFact Florida can objectively analyze, but we found something else that caught our eye.
In a section of the mailer called "Who's cut out for the job?", Bondi creates a chart that reports to measure the three GOP candidates -- herself, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Holly Benson.
One of the categories is: "In their own words."
Bondi's answer, since she got to choose it, says that she won't be outworked or outlawyered. Kottkamp's answer comes from a newspaper interview related to the Republican Party of Florida credit card mess that besieged the state GOP in 2009 and early 2010.
Then there's Benson's line. According to Bondi, Benson once said that "just because you're poor doesn't mean you're unhealthy, it just means you have a lot more time to go running."
The line includes a footnote referencing a Tallahassee radio interview from July 9, 2008, when Benson would have been serving as Gov. Charlie Crist's health care secretary. But would she have said something like that?
We found a digital recording of the interview with WFSU's Margie Menzel.
Benson and Menzel were having an extended discussion about health and poverty, a serious topic. During the interview, Benson talked about trying to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables, the push for more nutrition in school lunches and the encouragement to take the stairs instead of the elevators.
Then, Menzel suggested the economic downtown would continue to create a "downward spiral" in people's health.
"It may not create a downward spiral in their health, maybe in their ability to find affordable health insurance," Benson responded. "But just because you're poor doesn't mean you have to be unhealthy. It means you have a lot more time to go running."
The answer prompted a devilish laugh from Menzel, and from the sound of it, immediate regret from Benson. (You can listen to the interview yourself here, the exchange starts around the 12 minute mark).
Benson almost instantaneously tried to correct her statement.
"OK, that's not... that's not really," Benson says over the laughing. Then, she tried to clarify her point. "I don't think just because you don't make a lot of money doesn't mean you can't go exercise."
Later in the same program, a caller who identified himself as "Michael from Alabama" criticized Benson's remark, calling it inappropriate and low class.
"Thank you sir, I apologize for that. As soon as I said it, I regretted it," Benson says according to the audio recording. "I mistook something that Ms. Menzel said and meant that there's no reason that anybody couldn't be healthy at any time."
Bondi quotes Benson accurately in the campaign mailer, but Benson tried to walk back her comment right away and apologized for it later in the same radio interview. We rate Bondi's statement Mostly True.
Published: Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 at 6:03 p.m.
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