On May 16, I published a piece criticizing Congresswoman Val Demings (D-FL) for a comment she made on her Facebook page. It was a hot topic issue, and because of that, the piece received more than 30,000 shares on social media.
I couldn't have predicted that three months down the road, the story would take an unexpected twist.
To better understand the situation, we have to turn back the clock a bit. In 2009, when Demings was the police chief of Orlando, Florida, a man broke into her vehicle, and stole her agency-issued 9 mm handgun as well as ammunition and several other items from a duffle bag, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Following an investigation, Demings was given a "written censure" for "not properly securing her gun in her car."
In 2016, Demings was elected to be the representative for Florida’s 10th district. In May 2017, she penned a Facebook post advocating gun control. When a man named Stephen Mercer criticized her for speaking about guns, she hit back:
Unsurprisingly, her remark caused a firestorm. Fast-forward three months, and Rep. Demings reached out to me in order to offer her side of the story.
She wrote: “I am sorry I am just seeing your message. I like to personally respond but I receive so many messages, it's tough. I have responded before but I guess some folks weren't interested in the truth. I meant to ask a question as opposed to making a statement. In other words, I meant to end the comment with a question mark. The person disagreed with my statement so I was basically asking, 'My rights are different from yours?' It's that simple.”
"Why didn't you simply say that at the outset?" I asked. "And why did your communications director tell me that you wouldn't comment on it?"
The congresswoman replied: “I was told by my comms director that she posted the clarification that day. I was performing an out-of-town wedding that day and never followed up." She continued: "I always wondered why some people continued to ignore the truth. I now believe my comms director was the one who did not want to deal with it. She is no longer with my office. As you know, I was a cop and have provided security for the most extreme groups while they exercised their First Amendment rights. Take care, and again, thanks for seeking the truth. We desperately need more of that!”
Following this explanation, I was somewhat satisfied. Simply to cover my bases, however, I returned to the original Facebook post. Among the dozens of comments, one person pointed out that Demings had edited her initial remark. Sure enough, the comment had indeed been edited.
I clicked on the link, and found something bizarre. Three days after Demings posted her initial remark containing the period, someone went back in and modified the period to a question mark. Less than an hour later, the comment was edited again. This time, the question mark was removed, and replaced with a period:
I reached out to Demings once again regarding her intent: “Just for clarification and simplicity purposes, you meant the comment as a question, correct? ‘My rights are different from yours?’ However, you unintentionally put a period on the end.”
The congresswoman replied with a variant of her first answer: “Yes. If you read the posts before, and look at my post, I meant to ask a question, ‘My first amendment rights are different from yours?’ I was saying: How was it okay for the other person to ‘have his opinion,’ but it did not appear I could express my own?" Demings made clear that she "did not mean to put a period, and initially did not even understand why people were upset."
It wasn't until until she looked at the comment that she realized her mistake. "I would never intentionally make that statement. I am pretty assertive, but raised to be pretty humble and very grateful," she stated.
Unsatisfied, I inquired about the multiple edits to her comment. Demings told me that because she was otherwise occupied at a wedding (which she previously mentioned), she had asked her former communications director to modify the post with a question mark. She added: “Why she went in and changed it back [to a period]...I cannot answer.”
At first, I found this explanation somewhat dubious. Then, several minutes later, Demings sent me a picture of her May 6th text exchange with her communications director, noting: "Hey, I found my texts that day between Caroline and me. As you can see, even in my text to her, I unintentionally put a period.”
So, it appears this was all a painfully ridiculous and protracted misunderstanding.
This is a lesson in intellectual honesty. Is it possible that Demings fabricated her story? Yes. However, understanding the context of the exchange, and considering the clarifications she provided me, it's incredibly unlikely.
My initial piece about Val Demings reached a great deal of people. I hope this piece goes just as far because while I may disagree with the congresswoman politically, she, like anyone else, deserves a fair hearing.
I would like to thank Rep. Demings for working with me to correct the record.