Posts on social media come back to haunt those in politics, sports on the Suncoast

Posts on social media come back to haunt those in politics, sports on the Suncoast
ABC7 News at 7 Roundtable Discussion - November 21, 2018: Part 1
ABC7 News at 7 Roundtable Discussion - November 21, 2018: Part 2

SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - What happens on the internet will always stay on the internet, but some people don’t think twice before making an inappropriate post.

“Really they thought of it as ‘I’m just talking to my 10 or 15’ friends when in reality I’m talking to the whole world,” said Danny Fuerstman, Political Science Professor at State College of Florida.

Gone are the days when we used social media to simply interact with friends. Outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are now used for business purposes and politics.

“It’s become integral to campaign strategies whether that’s recruiting volunteers or getting the word out and mobilizing voters on Facebook,” explained Fuerstman.

Sometimes we forget that by one click of a button, we are blasting out our thoughts to the entire world. One person who learned the hard way: Adam Shapiro. He’s the son of David Shapiro, who was the Democratic candidate for Florida’s 16th congressional district. The 28-year-old was involved with his father’s campaign, until old, offensive Facebook posts surfaced.

“I think we’re gonna see things like this more and more frequently because in those early years of social media they weren’t thinking about the things they were posting on Facebook or Twitter,” said Fuerstman.

Adam Shapiro, son of David Shapiro, posted comments on Facebook in 2010 viewed by some people as racially-insensitive.
Adam Shapiro, son of David Shapiro, posted comments on Facebook in 2010 viewed by some people as racially-insensitive. (Source: Facebook)

The statuses including the n-word and other vulgar comments were posted by Adam Shapiro back in 2010, eight years before his father announced he was running for the District 16 seat.

“If there’s something ugly out there, they’ll find it. If there’s something they can take out of context, they’ll usually do that,” said New College of Florida Political Science Professor Frank Alcock, of politicians using social media for opposition research.

Adam announced his departure from his father’s campaign, and apologized for making the offensive comments, saying: "I offer my sincere apologies for the offensive comments I made. Clearly, I had a lot of maturing to do and these thoughtless Facebook posts do not reflect who I truly am, or the lessons of discipline, respect, and kindness that my parents worked to instill in me. To ensure that the things I wrote are not a distraction from my father’s campaign, I am stepping away and will no longer play a role in this race.”

David Shapiro also released a statement, saying, in part: “I’ve never accepted that kind of language in my home and I’m disappointed that Adam, even in his youth, would make such offensive comments online.”

It’s not just politics, here on the Suncoast, we saw a similar incident in high school sports.

Venice High School head football coach John Peacock briefly lost his job after liking a racially-insensitive tweet directed at Braden River’s coach Curt Bradley.

“My wife and I have sat down on the weekends and taken some classes, a little bit of sensitivity training as far as opponents. I need to try to be nicer to our opponents," said Peacock during his unemployment in May 2018.

Venice High School’s principal announced he re-hired Peacock about two months later, but the coach told ABC7 he learned a life lesson.

“I think it’s an opportunity for me to reinvent myself. I think we all strive to have self improvement in all kinds of areas and its something I look forward on working on,” said Peacock in June.

While Peacock didn’t permanently lose his job over the post, SRQ Magazine Contributing Editor Jacob Ogles believes Adam Shapiro’s comments may have cost his father some much-needed votes.

“It definitely put a roadblock up in terms of in-roads he could make in the minority community and that’s what he really needed in order to be competitive with Vern Buchanan,” sad Ogles.

Now, Buchanan will keep his seat in congress for another two years, but let this serve as a reminder that your social media skeletons aren’t buried very deep.

“It’s a question of, okay, have I learned from the things I used to believe, and am I now a better person, and how do we judge that as a society?” stated Fuerstman.

We reached out to Vern Buchanan’s campaign the day those social media posts surfaced. His campaign manager said they read the affiliated article by Florida Politics, but otherwise had no comment.

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