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Mayor’s statement, after falsely calling Pride parade accident a ‘terrorist attack,’ makes things worse

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The mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has issued a follow-up statement after he wrongly described a fatal accident at a “Pride” parade on Saturday as a “terrorist attack,” but it was lacking a key element: An apology for being wrong.

Instead, Mayor Dean Trantalis appeared to justify his earlier incorrect characterization of the incident by claiming that he, himself, felt “terrorized.”

“Last evening, at the start of what was to be a celebration of pride for the LGBT community and commemoration of our hard-won victories for equality, our community faced the worst of tragedies. The grief of our LGBT community — and greater Fort Lauderdale as a whole — is palpable,” he wrote in a Facebook post, a screenshot of which he posted to Twitter.

“I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events. It terrorized me and all around me. I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strong concerns about what transpired — concerns for the safety of my community. I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away,” he continued.

“Law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job,” Trantalis added. “As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control. As a result, one man died, two others were injured and the lives of two members of Congress were at risk. My heart breaks for all impacted by this tragedy.”

On Saturday, Trantalis and others immediately blamed the incident on “terrorism,” with others singling out GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed legislation in April granting immunity to drivers who are set upon by angry mobs and forced to drive through them in order to reach safety.

“What we saw was a terrorist attack on the LGBT community. This is disgusting. We will not stand for this. This is not going to happen in my city or any city,” the mayor said.

Pressed by a local reporter as to whether the incident could have been an accident, Trantalis doubled down: “Hardly an accident. It was deliberate, it was premeditated, and it was targeted against a specific person.”

Subsequent reports showed a man dressed in a Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus t-shirt being taken into custody. And a preliminary finding by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department has concluded that the incident was the result of an accidental acceleration of a pick-up truck driving by the Gay Men’s Chorus member — not “terrorism.”

“As the vehicle began to move forward in anticipation for the start of the parade, the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly, striking two pedestrians,” the police report states. “After striking the pedestrians, the driver continued across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into the fence of a business on the west side of the street.

“The driver remained on scene and has been cooperative with investigators for the duration of the investigation. A DUI investigation of the driver was conducted on scene and showed no signs of impairment,” the report continued, adding that no arrests have been made.

Social media users blasted Trantalis’ rush to judgment, as well as his non-apology.

“@Twitter does this violate your misinformation policy?” asked Daily Caller journalist Jordan Lancaster in a tweet that included several screen grabs of news reports quoting Trantalis’ false accusation.

@DeanTrantalis appears to not be taking any responsibility for giving on the record statements that turned out to be totally false,” Matt Karolian, general manager of Boston.com and other Boston Globe online platforms, posted.

“What intel did you receive that it was a terrorist attack for you to feel confident enough to relay that to the public?” asked investigative journalist Andy Ngo.

“Nowhere in that statement are the words ‘I was wrong’, ‘I jumped to conclusions’, ‘I should’ve waited for all the facts to come in’, or ‘I’m a partisan hack and an idiot who shamelessly tried to exploit this tragedy for political gain,'” user AdamInHTown added.

“How about an apology to your constituents and some self-reflection about what it means to be a leader during a crisis? You failed miserably,” wrote producer Alfred Spellman.

Jon Dougherty

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