The primary isnt over yet, but Bill Nelson expects his general election rival for U.S. Senate will be Connie Mack IV, and he has launched his first statewide ad attacking his rival.
Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, released the ad against Mack, a Republican congressman from Fort Myers, on Aug. 2. It seeks to paint Mack as a brawling incompetent.
Narrator: Florida, meet Connie Mack IV. A promoter for Hooters with a history of bar room brawling, altercations and road rage. A big spender with a trail of debts, liens and unpaid bills. He has one of the worst attendance records in Congress this year but he still voted to end Medicare as we know it. Questionable work habits. A sense of entitlement. Connie Mack, he thinks the rules are different for him.
That echoes some online attacks by Macks Republican primary opponent George LeMieux, who dropped out of the race in June because of Macks overwhelming lead in the polls and fundraising.
LeMieux claimed Macks only real job in the real world was an events coordinator for Hooters. We ruled that Mostly False because Mack had some additional private sector jobs including selling fitness equipment. PolitiFact Florida also recently checked a claim by another Mack Republican rival, former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, that Mack missed almost half his votes in Congress this year. We rated that Mostly False. Although Mack had missed votes, he had not missed that many.
In this report, we will briefly review Macks Hooters-related job and whether he had a history of bar room brawling, altercations and road rage.
Macks work for Hooters
Mack campaign spokesman David James told us for our previous fact check about Hooters that Mack was a marketing executive for LTP Management from 1994 to 2000. The company owned and operated several Hooters franchises in Florida, as well as Dan Marinos Town Tavern and Lulus Bait Shack.
Mack never received a paycheck directly from Hooters, but we never denied he worked on behalf of Hooters, James said.
Hooters has often been mentioned in articles throughout Macks political career, which started with a state House seat he won in 2000. He won his first congressional race in 2004.
A 2000 Palm Beach Post article quipped: When he announced his candidacy in November, he mentioned his broad business experience surely an unintentional pun. The Tampa Bay Times The Buzz blog recently posted Macks Hooters business card.
Nelsons ad cited a 2012 POLITICO blog headline: Connie Macks Hooters connection. The blog stated that Mack, his political action committee and his wife, U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., received nearly $50,000 in donations from Hooters management during their time in office.
Our one criticism about this part of the ad is that Nelson didnt make it clear that Macks Hooters-related work ended more than a decade ago. Calling Mack a promoter for Hooters leaves the impression that Mack currently works for Hooters. That isnt accurate he stopped working for LTP management in 2000.
A history of bar room brawling, altercations and road rage
Now lets turn to the portion of the ad where the narrator said Mack had a history of bar room brawling, altercations and road rage. On the screen the word arrest also appears.
The ad cites a March 2012 Associated Press article describing past incidents that occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s when Mack was in his 20s. The Miami Herald also wrote about Macks past in February 2012. We will pull from both newspaper articles plus court documents the Miami Herald posted online to summarize these incidents.
1989 nightclub arrest: While at a Jacksonville nightclub called Bananas, Mack, then 22, was arrested by an off-duty Duval County sheriffs deputy. After Mack or one of his friends was asked to remove his hat (reports conflict on this point), Mack refused and swore at club workers, according to employee testimony. Mack refused to leave and was arrested for resisting an officer without violence.
Mack called the arrest a misunderstanding and pleaded no contest. The judge withheld adjudication, meaning he has no criminal record, according to the Herald. The report was sealed by court order. As well see, Mack was later involved in litigation that brought the incident to light.
1992 bar brawl: In February 1992, Mack got into a brawl with then-professional baseball player Ron Gant at an Atlanta bar called Calico Jacks. The Miami Herald reported: A waitress testified that Mack, who had been heavily drinking beer and Jagermeister shots all night, took the first swing at Gant. Mack testified he couldnt remember how much beer he drank, but said he had only one liquor shot of tequila. Gant claims a drunken Mack repeatedly bumped into him, precipitating a fight. Mack claims Gant attacked him for no reason. During the melee, Gant head-locked Mack. Mack testified that he couldnt breath. So he starting striking and grabbing the ball players crotch. At a certain point, the clubs bouncers got involved and Mack broke his ankle. He sued Gant, who was held liable. But a jury awarded no damages.
Late 1980s road rage incidents: The road rage incidents came to light in a 1996 deposition involving the Gant case. Here is how Mack described them: In one incident, which Mack placed around 1987 or 1988, Mack and a girlfriend were driving to Cape Coral when he said a man tried to run them off the road after he thought Macks girlfriend had cut in front of him. She drove off the road into a ditch, and Mack and the other man got out. He attempted a swing at me, and I swung back and hit him... Mack testified. Mack said he then headed back to his car and the other man, wielding a bat, chased him, tried to hit him and then smashed the windows of Macks car.
In the other incident, which Mack placed around 1987, occurred in West Palm Beach when he was in a car with friends and stopped at a draw bridge. The guys in Macks car had just watched a Howie Mandel video, and one of the guys in the car was in the back screaming like Howie Mandel. A man in another car apparently got upset. Mack got out of his car, and the other man got out of his car and jumped on top of Mack.
Mack said he later received a phone call from a police sergeant who said someone wanted to press charges but that he never heard anything about it again.
We dont have a full account of the road rage incidents the Associated Press wrote that court records in the Gant civil suit didnt include testimony from the other people involved. And there were conflicting accounts in the Jacksonville and Atlanta brawls. For example, in the Gant fight a waitress said Mack bought about 20 pitchers of beer and rounds of shots over five hours and was drunk, while Mack said he felt no effect from two to four beers and one shot over two hours, according to The Associated Press.
For this article we asked James, Macks campaign spokesman, if he had anything he wanted us to review. James told us in an email that all of this is very important as PolitiFact found all of this stuff false or mostly false in the spring when LeMieux did it.
A Mack spokesman previously told The Miami Herald as for Macks past brawls that Mack was young and foolish at that time.