El Jefe

Activist John DeGroot Explains His Fart Machine at the Broward Health Meeting

John DeGroot is an eminent journalist. He not only was a city editor of the old Fort Lauderdale News and a Pulitzer finalist,  but he was part of a team at the Akron Beacon Journal that won the Pulitzer for the Kent State shooting. 

Back when I worked at the Sun Sentinel in the 1990s, he was a grand writing coach. He also wrote a great play about Ernest Hemingway. 

So this week, he brought a fart machine to the Broward Health meeting to show "they don't know what the fuck they are doing," he says. "As a matter of fact, they have a $1.9 billion budget and they are using their tax subsidy to engage in unfair competition with private hospitals." 

The 78-year-old long ago hired Broward Beat columnist Buddy Nevins at the News. But this week Nevins wrote that DeGroot had sunk to a "new low" with the fart machine. Sun Sentinel writer David Fleshler, whom DeGroot calls "just plain stupid," also described the incident.


But DeGroot says, "You need to disrupt things so that people know it is wrong. I thought it was the most dramatic way I could show my disrespect. I threw a pie at a guy a few months ago... I couldn't carry that many pies. This was the best I could do."

Security was called and DeGroot surrendered the fart machine but declined to leave. "They knew and I knew this is a public facility.  I said use of my fart machine is a form of First Amendment rights, First Amendment speech.

"One of them said, 'Will you surrender your fart machine?' and I said, 'Gladly.'"

Of course, the long-troubled administration of North Broward health facilities still pisses him off, and he plans to gather more data showing their problems. "I will not surrender my fart machine next time," he says.
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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse