YouTube playlist leads to accusations of racism in House race in Tampa Bay

In the controversial State House District 59 Republican primary, Berny Jacques is suing prominent political operatives over senders of attacks he calls racist, false and defamatory and based on a fake rap music playlist created on the internet.

Most of the agents are not named in the lawsuit, but the circumstances point to the firm of Anthony Pedicini, a Tampa-based Republican political consultant with ties to Republican legislative leaders and a history of using sham political committees to attack the opponents.

Pedicini’s strategic image management works for the campaign of Jacques’ main opponent, Jennifer Wilson, and for the committee that sent out the mailings. It is the only company that the committee has paid for courier services.

Jacques’ attorney is State Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Lithia, who previously sued Pedicini for campaign tactics.

In 2018, while vying for his House seat, Beltran sued Pedicini and a working Pedicini opponent for alleged libel and slander in campaign attack mailings. This lawsuit was settled on terms kept confidential.

Jacques’ lawsuit alleges that an unknown individual created a YouTube playlist featuring profane and violent rap songs and tagged it as belonging to Jacques, who is black. Songs included “FDT (F–k Donald Trump),” by YG and Nipsey Hussle.

A political committee, Keeping Florida Great, then sent out letters calling it Jacques’ ‘personal music playlist’, mentioning the anti-Trump piece and other songs, and using a doctored photo of Jacques, who is black. , wearing headphones.

“Why is Berny Jacques listening to anti-conservative songs that are rallying cries for liberal activists?” It said.

In an interview, Jacques replied, “I’ve been involved in politics since my freshman year of college and I’ve never seen anything so completely made up.”

The Mail describes Jacques as “a black thug driving down the street with his music blaring listening to these vulgar lyrics. It’s disgusting,” said JC Pritchett, a St. Petersburg pastor and civil rights advocate.

The lawsuit names as defendants the committee and its chairman, Michael Milner of Jensen Beach, who often works with Pedicini, as well as four political operatives “John Doe” and a “John Doe Cybersquatter”, referring to whoever created the playlist.

He alleges that they were acting on behalf of Wilson.

The trial also bears its own political charges.

He alleges that the defendants worked to support “establishment Republicans” and “RINOs”, or Republicans in name only, while Jacques is a “constitutional conservative and social conservative” who “poses a serious threat to the establishment Republicans.

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Ricardo Reyes, attorney for Pedicini, responded to questions with an emailed statement saying, “Both attorney Beltran and Mr. Jacques were advised, prior to the filing of the complaint, that SIM (Strategic Image Management) and Mr. Pedicini had not created the playlist.

“When Mr. Jacques denied that the reading list was genuine … SIM and Mr. Pedicini agreed not to refer to the reading list in any other election-related materials.”

Milner and Wilson did not respond to repeated calls and emails seeking comment.

A third Republican, Dipak Nadkami, follows Jacques and Wilson in fundraising. In the Republican-leaning district of Pinellas in the midwest, the winner of the Republican primary will be the favorite in the general election.

Times writer Milla Surjadi contributed to this report.

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