Bilirakis Responds to Media Mischaracterization
I take significant exception with the way your paper has recently mischaracterized me and a recent educational event I sponsored, which was attended by 186 women in my district this past Saturday. Participant feedback indicates that the event was a tremendous success, offering helpful information on a wide variety of topics they found relevant to their lives.
Your initial article on the subject was purposefully misleading in order to manufacture controversy. Despite receiving accurate information to the contrary, your reporter suggested that sessions about establishing a community garden in areas of our community that meet the federal definition of a food desert and women’s health were tantamount to providing tips about how to trim rose bushes and lose weight. The second article about the event gave significant focus to the small number of protestors who claimed that the summit ignored “women’s issues” while failing to provide any feedback from actual participants or from the esteemed group of panelists, despite several women from both groups taking the time to speak with your reporter.
The truth is that women are not a homogeneous population, nor do they universally agree on issues. The diverse group of women involved in planning this event selected many topics they found meaningful and which proved to be highly educational, including: a discussion about the opioid crisis impacting our community, a presentation about how women business owners can leverage social media to maximize the success of their businesses, a conversation about how to support someone struggling with mental illness or substance use disorder, and the promotion of health and nutrition as it relates to disease management. I was pleased to see that the topics they selected closely aligned with much of the work I have been doing throughout almost two decades of public service to benefit women and families while strengthening the community in which we live.
In addition to spreading misinformation and politicizing a well-intentioned event that was requested by the women in our community, your coverage unfairly maligned my character and record of public service. While it is possible to take one or two votes out of context and create a false narrative, there is a plethora of evidence that I have consistently fought for policies and funding of programs that benefit all of my constituents, including women.
Additionally, I lead by example. Some of the most qualified, capable people I have ever known have been women, which is why if you look at my team you will find strong and dedicated women in almost every position of leadership, including Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff. I rely on their counsel to inform me about how pending issues will impact working women and single mothers in my district, and their advice has made me a better Congressman.
You do your readers a disservice and jeopardize your credibility when you offer such a biased presentation of information. I was proud to offer my constituents this educational forum and look forward, based upon participant feedback, to expanding it in future years.