Wealthy Florida investor and Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Greene suggested last week that the Koran includes “crazy stuff” — and his opponent is having a field day with it.
On Friday, Greene and his self-funded campaign was the subject of a Washington Post profile. Since then, Rep. Kendrick Meek, Greene’s opponent in Florida’s Democratic Senate primary, has hit Greene over and over with candid moments from the piece, subtly calling him both a religious bigot (Greene said the Koran includes “all kinds of this crazy stuff” within earshot of the Post reporter) and a misogynist (Greene called former good friend Heidi Fleiss “a businesswoman,” too).
Greene insists he was taken out of context on the Koran comment — and some are already saying the full transcript of the Post interview proves he’s right. Greene was asked what his “take” was on “the Muslim world” by a member of the audience at a campaign rally who said “they are scaring me very much” (referring to Muslims). Here’s what Greene said, in part:
I’m not an expert on Muslims. It is my understanding that there are 1.2 billion Muslims, and that about 200 million of them are pretty devout followers of parts of the Koran. Parts of it that say something like, everyone has a chance to accept Allah and Muhammad’s teachings and if they don’t the infidels must be killed, there’s all kinds of this crazy stuff. I think, unfortunately, that’s motivating extremists. Most Muslims are like everyone else in the world, they want peace.
Here’s what the Post printed:
“I’m not an expert on Muslims,” Greene said. But he added that anyone who knows anything about the Koran knows that it contains “all kinds of this crazy stuff. And unfortunately that’s motivating a lot of these extremists.”
The Miami New Times reviewed the transcript and what the Post printed and came to this conclusion: “Greene actually handled the question quite well considering where it was coming from, and as anyone who has encountered a fundamentalist of any religion (including Christians) knows there are some who take things a little too literally.”
Regardless of what he meant to say, the line was a clear indication of how, in the words of the Post, “unpolished” Greene is on the campaign trail. Most candidates wouldn’t, as Greene did in the Post piece, take a reporter on a private jet ride and point out his house from the air as “the one with the swimming pool right on the water, with the tennis court behind it.”
And according to the Meek campaign, women took offense at that characterization of Fleiss, suggesting that Greene was basically calling all businesswomen madams, which of course was Fleiss’ line of work. This afternoon, the Meek campaign assembled a conference call full of powerful, successful women in Florida to make that very point and discuss, “Greene’s insensitive comments toward women” as the campaign stated in an email to reporters.”
“He’s very disturbing,” Barbara Devane, a Talhassee NOW activist, said on the call acording to the Florida Times-Union. “The people he hangs out with disturb me greatly,”
The Greene campaign did not respond to TPM’s request for comment. On his campaign website, Greene addresses the time Fleiss lived on his property (yes, really) and says that “I believe in redemption, I try to help people when they are down, and I haven’t lived my life looking over my shoulder in case I run for office some day.”
To read any profile of Greene is to be told about the time Fleiss lived in his guest house (as well as the fact that boxer Mike Tyson was the best man at Greene’s wedding.) Voters probably already know about it, and it’s not clear how the Fleiss stuff will play (especially considering the Meek line of attack on it which could be confusing to some.)
Greene is, if you will, green. And that’s the point, according to the Meek campaign.
The race is also not one Democrats look likely to win — at least not by electing the Democratic nominee, anyway. Though Meek and Greene are now running neck-and-neck for their party’s nomination, they trail the frontrunners in the race — Gov. Charlie Crist (I) and GOP nominee Marco Rubio — by double digits. (Crist has been reaching out to Democrats since leaving the Republicans and there are signs that Democrats are willing to accept him as their own.)
Late Update: Greene’s campaign sends along this statement from former West Palm Beach mayor Carol Roberts in response to the Meek call about Greene and women:
“As Senator, Jeff Greene will make women’s issues a priority. He will protect a woman’s right to choose, fight for equal pay for equal work, ensure access to quality healthcare, create good paying jobs, increase access to a college education and strengthen social security.
“I stand by Jeff Greene, who is the only candidate for US Senate that is not embroiled in a corruption scandal. I support Jeff Greene and will urge other women to do the same.”