By Michael E. Miller
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A videotaped sworn statement has surfaced that bolsters the contention that Florida Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist had a recent romantic relationship with a convicted felon and former travel aide to U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris.
Last week, I reported that 21-year-old GOP staffer Jason Wetherington had claimed to credible sources that he had a sexual relationship with the 50-year-old Crist and had identified the frontrunner's "long-term partner" as Bruce Carlton Jordan, who remains on state probation after serving a 30-day jail sentence for a conviction on grand theft and forgery charges.
Crist has repeatedly denied that he is gay and, with the election looming next week, has recently become more vocal in his stance against adoption by gay couples and in support of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage.
Crist's campaign spokeswoman, Vivian Myrtetus, responded to my questions with an e-mail: "Wild, false rumors like this one are a sad commentary on the politics of personal destruction which is so hurtful to the political process," she wrote. "This is a completely false story from a convicted felon."
Evidence, however, is piling up that he and Jordan, whom the GOP candidate claims not to remember ever having met, had a relationship and that his Republican opponent Tom Gallagher knew about it prior to the September 5 primary vote.
Much of the information surrounding the relationship came, unwittingly and somewhat ironically, from the Harris U.S. Senate campaign, where Jordan worked as the congresswoman's personal travel aide not long after his release from jail in February.
It was while he was employed in that capacity that another traveler on the Harris campaign, Dee Dee Hall, befriended him. that I obtained over the weekend, Hall swears that Jordan confided to her that he had an ongoing romantic relationship with Crist.
On the tape, Hall sits in a sharply collared blue blouse and talks about a Fourth of July outing with Harris on the wealthy island enclave of John's Island near Vero Beach.
As the evening wore on, Hall says that she began talking with Jordan, whom she had already befriended on the campaign trail, about romantic relationships. She says she wanted to set up Jordan, whom she knew to be gay, with a friend.
"He said that he was involved with Charlie," she says on the tape after she was sworn in by a court reporter. "I was like, 'OK.' He just stated his first name. He said, 'Maybe you've heard of him.' He said Charlie Crist."
She then asked Jordan what it was like to have a romantic relationship with "such a public figure."
"And he said... Charlie was apparently having some issues with that and trying to keep it under wraps and just trying to deal with it in general, you know," she said, later adding that Jordan seemed troubled that Crist was seeking counseling. "He was kind of quiet about it after that point, like he was concerned about Charlie's decision to seek counseling."
I couldn't reach Hall for comment, but Vass, who is well-known in state Republican circles, confirmed that she gave the statement and said that Jordan also confided in him about the relationship.
Vass has been a pilot for top Republican politicians in Florida for nearly a decade. He's flown Gov. Jeb Bush, most every member of the state Cabinet, and a veritable who's who of GOP bigs, including Crist, whom Vass knows personally. His company, Celtic Air, is represented by major Tallahassee lobbyist Wilbur Brewton.
Speaking from his manufacturing company's office in Live Oak, Vass not only confirmed Hall's sworn statement but also added that Jordan had told him of his romantic relationship with Crist as well and that he too had given a sworn statement to that effect.
"It's the truth," said Vass.
Vass, who is a registered Republican, said that while he was serving as the pilot for the Harris campaign this summer, he spent many hours with Jordan. He said that during that time, Jordan told him and other Harris staffers that he was dating Crist.
The pilot also said that Jordan and other Harris staffers were matter-of-fact about the relationship and treated as a fact that Crist is gay. He recounted the evening of June 20, when he was at the Blue Martini bar in Tampa with Jordan and Harris campaign scheduler Jennifer DeBord.
Vass said that DeBord was aware of the relationship - and had seen e-mail exchanges between Jordan and Crist and that the 42-year-old Jordan admitted it to him.
"I couldn't believe they were so open about it," says Vass. "I asked him, 'Aren't you afraid of this coming out?' And Jordan said, 'It will come out sooner or later, and just as long as long as it comes out after the election, I don't care.'
"Everybody knew that Charlie was gay and what absolutely floored me about it was they made no attempt to hide it or disguise it."
When reached at the Harris campaign office, DeBord denied having any knowledge about Jordan and Crist. "I have no knowledge of anything," she said, obviously perturbed at the questions. "I know nothing about that. It is not my business."
Vass, meanwhile, happens to be a very good friend of state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who was Crist's opponent in the primary. Not only has Vass flown Gallagher on campaign stops, but he has also given the politician flying lessons, and the two men have considered business ventures together.
"I was thinking how to expose this," Vass says frankly. "I told Tom [Gallagher] about it, and he said, 'That's what we all suspected. I don't know what we could do with this information.' I said, 'I don't either Tom. All I can do is tell you what I heard.'"
Vass said he also told Harris of Jordan's claim while the two were at the Pompano Beach Airport. Harris, who has said she dated Crist many years ago, told him she "had no idea" about the relationship, he says.
"She said it was a shock to her, and I honestly believe that," Vass told me. "[Harris] said that she and Charlie dated in the past and that during that time she went home and took a lot of cold showers."
Vass did a background check and discovered that Jordan was a felon who had stolen money from two organizations that employed him, including the Tallahassee-based Florida Funeral Home Directors Association, where Jordan served as executive director.
The pilot took that information to Steve Andrews, a Tallahassee attorney and Gallagher backer. And that ultimately led to Jordan's ouster from the campaign and an August 11 article in the Miami Herald about Jordan's ties to Harris and his friendship with Crist, with no mention of a possible romantic relationship.
Ultimately, a private detective in Tallahassee, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, took the sworn statements of both Vass and Hall. The P.I. indicated that he had been investigating Crist for several months. He wouldn't reveal who hired him for the job.
Rumors abounded that Crist would be outed prior to the September 5 primary, but it never happened. Sources say that Gallagher ultimately decided not to do anything with the information, fearing what it would do to the Republican Party and his own political career.
Sources, however, also say that the Hall videotape was released to a veteran St. Petersburg Times reporter, but the newspaper chose not to publish a story.
I became aware of Jordan two weeks ago when a source revealed that Wetherington, who also worked on the Harris campaign, had identified him as Crist's long-term partner. It was only after that story was published that sources came forward about Dee Dee Hall and Vass.
There is no known tie between those two and Wetherington, who has reportedly left the state until next week's election; the pilot says he never met him and didn't recognize the picture that ran on the New Timeswebsite.
I have been unable to contact Jordan, but his father, Albert Jordan, confirmed to me that his son and Crist were friends. Bruce Jordan was known by many to be friends with Crist. In 2003, Jordan, as executive director of the funeral directors' group, used his friendship with Crist to persuade him to appear at the group's annual conference, when Gov. Jeb Bush canceled on short notice. Last week, however, Crist not only denied to me that he had a sexual relationship with Jordan but also that he has ever had sex with a man in his life. One denial, however, that seems particularly dubious is his contention that he doesn't remember ever meeting Jordan at all, especially considering recent photographic evidence. The two men were definitely at the same function on August 5 at, of all places, the annual Possum Festival in Wassau, a tiny town on the Panhandle.
At the festival were numerous politicians, including Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Rod Smith and Jim Davis and both Harris and Crist. Vass recalls flying Harris and her travel aide, Jordan, to the festival, but the pilot didn't accompany them to the event.
The private investigator, however, says he was there. And he snapped several photographs of Jordan, including one which allegedly shows the two men greeting each other. Crist is grinning at the man alleged to be Jordan, whose back is to the camera. A black backpack he was carrying is visible and his distinctive bald spot is evident, however. At the end of her sworn statement, Dee Dee Hall positively identified the man in the photograph as Jordan.
"Jordan was following Crist everywhere he went at the possum festival," the P.I. told me. The investigator said that it was obvious the two men knew each other. But still there is no proof of a sexual relationship between them, just two witnesses who swear that Jordan told them of the relationship. Similarly, a pair of sources also say Wetherington made claims of a sexual liaison with Crist, though Wetherington has denied it.
Max Linn, the Reform Party candidate who made a splash at Monday's gubernatorial debate, has said repeatedly that Crist has admitted to him on twice that he is at least bisexual [see "Charlie Crist Is NOT Gay," Julia Reischel, October 19]. And Linn is a multimillionaire financial planner who for years was a Republican insider and bankroller.
In other words, Linn has some credibility. But most people in the know seem locked in denial, which doesn't surprise Vass at all, especially since Crist has raised $22 million and the state GOP is expected to pump at least that much into the race.
There's big money at stake and a lot of political jobs.
"All the people close to him know he's gay, but they aren't going to say anything because all their jobs depend on him winning the election," he explains. "I don't have anything to gain from telling you this right now, and it's probably going to keep me from flying Republicans again.
"But it's about the man's lies and it's the right thing to do, I guess."