Matt Lauer loses job after sexual harassment accusations

(image courtesy of David Shankbone CC BY 3.0)

TAMPA—“Today” show anchor Matt Lauer joined the constantly-growing list of celebrities ousted from their jobs Nov. 30 after being accused of workplace sexual misconduct.

After NBC fired Lauer, more accusers came forward, just as they did when Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misconduct went public. The online publication Variety published a story about Lauer that reporters said took months to investigate. The article details accounts from multiple women, beyond the first complaint NBC says it received.

Fellow “Today” show anchor Savannah Guthrie and coworker Hoda Kotb reported Lauer’s firing on-air the morning that news first broke.

CNN noted that this is not the first time women have reported news of a colleague being fired after sexual misconduct allegations. People praised Guthrie’s composure and display of raw emotions.

Others criticized Guthrie and Kotb for not focusing on the women who came forward. Some even accused the cohosts of being aware of the alleged misconduct.

In the days following Lauer’s firing, more women have come forward, and videos have emerged showing Lauer acting inappropriate toward women on the “Today” show.

Lauer released a statement Thursday saying he feels “embarrassed and ashamed,” and is committed to “repairing the damage” he inflicted. He did say that some of the allegations and reporting of his misconduct is “untrue,” but offered no further clarification.

According to multiple news sources, Lauer and his wife, Annette Roque, have lived apart for years. In 2006, Roque filed for divorce, but ultimately did not follow through. The couple has three children together.

While people criticized Lauer for the behavior women accused him of, some defended him. Geraldo Rivera, a well-known reporter, tweeted about the scandal on Wednesday.

He also wrote that women should have to report harassment within a certain time period. Rivera apologized later that day after receiving backlash from people who claimed he victim-shamed Lauer’s accusers and victims of sexual harassment.

Some people think that Rivera’s mindset mirrors that of many people across the United States who do not believe sexual harassment is a serious problem.

Another controversy that arose from Lauer’s firing involved President Trump. Trump’s complicated history with sexually inappropriate remarks is no secret, but some believe he is guilty of more than inappropriate statements. An op-ed in the LA Times asked why Trump has not been held accountable for the sexual assault accusations against him.

Twitter users wondered the same.

Trump himself commented on the accusations about Lauer, but did not mention anything about his history of being accused of sexual misconduct. Instead, he continued to attack media, as he has done several times in the past.

Lauer has not made a statement about any of the individual accusations at this time, and his conduct is still under investigation by NBC. The company will reportedly not pay out the rest of his $20 million dollar per year paycheck.


Saint Petersburg votes re-election in mayoral race

 Voters elected incumbent Rick Kriseman to be mayor of St. Petersburg by a slim margin on Tuesday.

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Kriseman won 51.64 percent of the vote. His opponent, former mayor of St. Petersburg Rick Baker, received 48.36 percent of the vote. Fewer than 2,000 votes separated the two candidates, both of whom have served time as the city’s mayor.

Kriseman campaigned with a platform that supported clean energy and LGBT equality, while openly criticizing President Donald Trump. He also emphasized his commitment to reducing crime and improving infrastructure.

Baker’s campaign also focused on reducing crime and making St. Petersburg more environmentally friendly. His campaign website’s “blueprint” also showed his desire to improve public schools, bring more jobs to the area and revitalize the downtown district.

On paper, both candidates seem to agree on most topics—but they certainly did not act like it. Baker, who was the city’s mayor from 2001 to 2010, repeatedly criticized Kriseman’s administration, blaming it for St. Pete’s “sewage crisis” which was worsened by Hurricane Irma. Kriseman called out Baker for not openly opposing Trump.

While the office is nonpartisan, political parties still play a major role. Kriseman is a Democrat and Baker is a Republican.

A columnist at the Tampa Bay Times advocated for Baker to speak publicly about Trump. For John Romano, the writer of that article, knowing a candidate’s political ideology is crucial when deciding who to vote for, and knowing whether Baker supports one of the most polarizing people in America could have swayed voters.

Kriseman embraced his political affiliation. He received an endorsement from former President Barack Obama, and made national headlines last year with his viral tweet about President Trump.

While people criticized him for the tweet, he ultimately proved that being partisan in an increasingly politically divided nation can be advantageous.

Other Democrats won seats across the United States on Tuesday, leading one Washington Post journalist to label it the “Democratic wave.”

Local politicians congratulated Kriseman after his victory.

Kriseman won despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Times, the most popular local newspaper, endorsed Baker. The Times traditionally recommends Democrats, and some have questioned the newspaper’s motive for recommending Baker.

One local news publication questioned the newspaper’s integrity after discovering that a member of the editorial board wrote the foreword in Baker’s upcoming book.

After Kriseman won the election, he tweeted a thank you to those who supported him, and promised to uphold his campaign promises.

Kriseman is the 53rd mayor of St. Petersburg.


Immigration Under Trump Administration

As the American people prepare for the upcoming election, many are excited about playing a part in the democratic process. But for others, like first generation Mexican-American Paloma Narvaez, each day closer to the election is potentially one less she could have with her family and friends.
There has been a lot of discussion on both sides about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposed plan to combat people entering the country illegally. Many people, like Narvaez, who are close with numerous undocumented people in the U.S., fear for the future of the nation if Trump’s plans are put in place.
Narvaez spoke of a friend of hers, an undocumented graduate student at USF conducting research in chemistry.
“She can get deported when she’s doing so much good here,” the junior accounting major said. “How are we going to lose someone so valuable?”
Trump’s plan on his website includes building a massive border wall on the southern border of the United States, extreme vetting for entrance into the country and the ending of sanctuary cities. The majority of Americans who oppose Trump’s proposals believe they are unethical and go against what America stands for. However, Trump’s supporters believe his plan will be a way to crack down on crime and aid in the safety of our nation in the future.
Michael Varicak, a USF alumnus with a degree in business, said he has been a Trump supporter since the day he announced his candidacy. Although he is an independent voter, Varicak said Trump’s “lack of a Washington, D.C. filter” got him listening to what Trump had to say.
Varicak said in a phone interview that he believes the immigration process has to be reformed. He also said he believes that although Trump may not build the massive wall he has been describing, he will definitely strengthen border security as a whole.
“I don’t think it’s unethical to enforce a country’s boarders and security,” the recent USF graduate said. “Especially at a time when you have ISIS and other things going on.”
The most talked about aspect of Trump’s plan is building a border wall, and making Mexico pay for it. David Jacobson, Ph.D., a USF professor and expert on immigration, said he doesn’t foresee the wall happening as Trump has described to his supporters.
Jacobson said although putting up a wall is legal, it would be nearly impossible to get another country to pay for it without using coercive measures. Jacobson pointed out that these tactics would pose issues, especially since the two nations are so close.
Since Jacobson doesn’t see Mexico paying for the wall in any way, he added that if the U.S. were to undertake this task alone, it would be a giant expense.
“It would be an enormous cost,” Jacobson said. “It would involve a massive investment, so it’s not really feasible.”
Originally, another pillar of Trump’s plan was mass deportations of undocumented people in the United States as soon as he went into office. Jacobson said mass deportation would not work on a logistical or legal level.
“That’s not really practical to deport 11 million people,” Jacobson said. “Each individual has a right to due process. It just becomes much more complex to even think about that.”
Although Trump has softened his stance on that in recent months, Narvaez said many in her community and family do not believe his change of heart.
“The way he portrayed himself initially, we already know he has that bias,” Narvaez said. “What has changed from then to now to change his stance?”
Narvaez and her family have a lot riding on this election. The outcome will likely determine whether many of her family members can stay in America, or will be forced back to the small Mexican town of Mazamitla, the name of which she has tattooed across her forearm.
Narvaez said regardless of what Trump says or does going forward, she will never respect him after his comments claiming that Mexican immigrants are bringing drugs and crime to the U.S. at the start of his presidential campaign.
“That’s my family he’s talking about,” Narvaez said. “Those are people I work with and study with.”

Florida Focus News Brief Oct. 24, 2016

In this episode: presidential candidates continue to visit the Bay Area, with Trump in Tampa tonight and Clinton downtown on Wednesday; early voting starts in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Hernando county; a crash leaves a motorcyclist dead and shuts down Gandy Bridge for multiple hours; Tampa police are searching for the man who stole two Waverunners valued over $33,000; Pinellas County Jail receives the R. Scott Chavez Facility of the Year Award for outstanding correctional healthcare quality, innovation, and dedication.