Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
Reporter James L. Rosica covers state government from the Tribune's Tallahassee bureau. Email
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Top Tampa GOP Figure Circulates Joke About Killing Obama
Posted Oct 15, 2008 by William March
Updated Oct 15, 2008 at 05:58 PM
Al Austin, a longtime, high-level Republican fundraiser from Tampa, today sent to his list of political contacts an e-mail containing a joke that refers to the assassination of Barack Obama.
When asked about the e-mail, Austin said it was a mistake and apologized and that he wouldn’t knowingly have circulated it. He said he planned to send an apology and retraction to the same e-mail list.
Al Austin/ Tribune file photo
The joke concerns a group of schoolchildren discussing the definition of “tragedy” as opposed to “great loss” or “accident.” The punch line comes when one child says that if an airplane carrying Obama and his wife, Michelle, “was struck by a ‘friendly fire’ missile and blown to smithereens,” the event might be a tragedy “because it certainly wouldn’t be a great loss, and it probably wouldn’t be an accident either.”
Austin acknowledged sending the e-mail to his list of political contacts but said he forwarded it without fully reading it and didn’t know what it said. That list included at least two reporters.
According to the forwarding history on the e-mail, it had gone through at least two other individuals before being sent to Austin on Tuesday.
Austin, a prominent real estate developer long known as one of the state’s leading Republican campaign fundraisers, has served in recent years as finance chairman for both the national and state Republican parties.