Bizarro Smear Campaign: Candidate Gregg Weiss Accused of Scientology, Anarchy in West Palm Beach Commission Race (PHOTO)
If that doesn't scare voters away from Materio's opponent, retired businessman Gregg Weiss, nothing will.
The warning came in an email blast from GOP lobbyist Anita Mitchell, who, along with her daughter, WPB City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell, is a highly vocal, well-connected Materio partisan. The information "speaks for itself," lobbyist Mitchell wrote, concluding that "we don't need this kind of philosophy governing our City." Unprompted, she declared that Scientology is not a religion.
Mitchell's "information" consists of two things. One is a photograph of Weiss, in a ship's cabin, wearing a T-shirt that reads: Scientology Volunteer Minister. The other is the phrase "social ecology," the title of the program in which Weiss holds a degree from UC-Irvine.
Regarding the T-shirt, Weiss told New Times it was "borrowed on a sailing trip" when his clothes got wet. "It's two sizes too large," he noted.
Mitchell told us she's heard that Weiss has given two, differing explanations of the incriminating garment. "He said it was on a ship. He also said it was a gag." Ya think? (We'd like to state for the record that we could, if we wished, provide a photograph of ourself in a T-shirt that reads: "I AM HIP-HOP." We're not.)
Mitchell did walk the Scientology claim back a baby step or two. "I probably shouldn't have said that," she said when pressed. At the same time, she added, "I stand by it. If he's not a Scientologist, he should say so." Hopefully, he'll also take the opportunity to clarify what else he isn't.
As for "social ecology," Mitchell's "investigation" relies on that modern Sybil, the internet. The most inflammatory part of her email is drawn whole hog from a website run by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a tobacco- and liquor-industry front group. The remainder appears to be drawn from a Wikipedia entry on libertarian socialist Murray Bookchin, and it is a fair description of Bookchin's philosophy.
We, less imaginatively, thought it good to look at the actual, you know, course descriptions of the Irvine program -- which has no connection whatsoever to Bookchin. The program consists of classes in criminology, psychology, and planning. Scary stuff.
Apprised of that information, the canny Mitchell dared call it conspiracy. "The university's not going to say it's anarchy," she told us.
"I'm not doing this mean-spiritedly," Mitchell said. "It's what you find when you Google -- here's his background. Kind of like investigating someone who's in the KKK or the John Birch Society."
In reply to a text message, Materio's campaign failed to disassociate itself from the Mitchell email, declining to comment. Speaking to the Palm Beach Post Materio offered up the "everybody does it" defense.
Weiss told us this: "Nothing in the email is accurate as it relates to me." Asked specifically about the "Scientology" claim, he replied, "I'm Jewish."
Here's the text of the email -- and the offending photo