GOP Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva isn’t backing down from his demand that Pensacola Republican state Rep.Mike Hill apologize for anti-gay remarks, even as Hill has lashed back at his critics for leading a “social media lynching.”
Oliva, of Miami Lakes, and fellow Republican Rules Chairman Rep. Chris Sprowls of Clearwater issued a joint statement Friday “unequivocally” condemning Hill for apparently laughing at a suggestion during a public meeting that Florida should follow Biblical prescriptions that gays be put to death.
Asked Monday what the leadership could do about the situation, Oliva spokesman Fred Piccolo wrote via email: “The House can take no formal action outside of session. The speaker has made his position clear and his suggestions to Rep. Hill that he apologize to his colleagues still stands.”
Meanwhile, Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an openly gay House member from Orlando, pressed a #ResignMikeHill campaign via a series of tweets.
“Still no sign of remorse. NO condemnation of stoning gays. NO apology to LGBTQ Floridians. Too late for an apology anyway. Time to start talking censure. Time to start talking removal,” Smith wrote in one of his tweets.
Hill did not respond to a request for comment from the Florida Phoenix.
The Pensacola News Journal reported Friday that, during a meeting of an organization called Women for Responsible Legislation, Hill was asked about the proposed Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would conform protections for LGBT people with federal law.
One person noted that the First Book of Corinthians prescribes the death penalty for gay sex, according to the recording. Hill remarks that the Old Testament did, too. Someone else asks, “Can you introduce legislation?”
At that point, Hill laughs and says, “I wonder how that would go over?”
After the recording went public, condemnation rained down. The Florida Democratic Party issued a press release pointing to other anti-gay comments Hill has offered in the past – calling his Twitter feed a “homophobic dumpster fire.” The party pointed to tweets in which Hill said that “the homosexual movement is God’s judgement,” and proposed, “Let’s replace LGBTQ with a ‘?’ That covers the whole thing.” Also on Twitter, he made fun of the way a group of men were sitting at a European Union meeting about coal usage, saying “They all cross their legs like they were gay.”
Over the weekend, Hill insisted that everyone was misrepresenting his position – lashing out at his House colleagues and calling news reports about the episode “fake news.”
“You are a liar,” he tweeted to Rep. Smith. “I did not laugh at or discuss legislation to execute anyone. How absurd! You are many things, but truthful is not one of them.”
Hill tweeted this at Florida Politics columnist Joe Henderson: “Your social media lynching is despicable. I never laughed at a joke about killing gays, and you know it. Your trash media has a history of attacking me.”
Hill is an African American insurance agent and a 1980 graduate of the U.S. Air Force academy who reached the rank of captain during a 10-year Air Force career, according to his House bio. He lists his religious affiliation as evangelical Christian and says he enjoys “classical and jazz music, reading, sailing.”
He sits on the Judiciary and Public Integrity & Ethics committees and the subcommittees on Agriculture & Natural Resources, Civil Justice, and PreK-12 Quality. He filed nine bills for the 2019 regular session, including one that would have banned abortions upon detection of a fetal heartbeat. Not one passed the Legislature.
Henderson wrote in his Florida Politics column that Hill has a history of controversial statements and actions. Last year, Henderson reported, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida accused him of “horrendous personal attacks” against primary opponent Rebekah Bydlak, calling his campaign tactics “deceitful, inappropriate and ungentlemanlike.”
Also Monday, Inweekly, a weekly newspaper published in the Escambia Bay region, said it has asked has asked local prosecutors in investigate Hill for possible public records violations because he has blocked reporters from his Twitter feed.
“Rep. Hill uses his twitter account to express his views on legislation and issues that are of concern to Florida voters. He has used his Twitter account to communicate with his fellow lawmakers and other elected officials. Thus, his Twitter account and his tweets are public records and should be available to all Floridians,” owner and publisher Rick Outzen wrote.