If you've been following the Orlando Sentinel's coverage of new Department of Children and Families boss Jerry Regier, you may have wondered the same thing I have: Did he or didn't he? (You may have also wondered whether Regier really talks like Tarzan, but let's assume the headline on Sunday's front-page story -- "I just want to do job" -- wasn't a direct quote.)
The lengthy piece by Wes Smith, the Sentinel's national correspondent, paints Regier as a hard-working, God-fearing, scandal-busting Oklahoma Republican caught in the meat grinder of Florida politics. Smith describes Regier as a "highly praised corruption fighter" who has on his office walls "an array of awards and plaques lauding him as a champion of clean government in his home state. ..." A Regier underling, who also happens to be a state public-relations flak, says her old boss is "very committed to children and making a difference in children's lives ..."
People with less effusive opinions of Regier were prominently identified as Democrats in the Sentinel story and shuffled off to the jump pages where, it's almost certain, few readers followed.
Of course the crux of the Regier-nomination story is the question of whether or not he wrote, edited or in any way controlled the content of "The Christian World View of the Family," a 1989 document published by the right-wing evangelists at the Coalition on Revival in California (www.reformation.net/cor/cordocs.htm). As we all know by now, that document says it's OK to hit kids hard enough to cause welts, that gay couples shouldn't be allowed to raise kids, that women should be unemployed and subservient, and that Christians shouldn't marry out of the faith. It's easy to see why the DCF boss would want to distance himself from this enlightened work, all the more so because his name is on it.
Enter the Sentinel. The paper's Sunday story made it clear that a man like Regier would never write a screed like that.
As proof, Smith proffers the following quote from Jerry Rekers, a behavioral science professor at the University of South Carolina who admits to writing some of the tract a long time ago, but says other authors have altered it since: "[Regier] had nothing to do with writing any of this."
What's strange is that on Saturday, Smith wrote another front-page story (co-bylined with Sentinel writer Bob Mahlburg) quoting another source who says exactly the opposite. Here's that quote, from Dr. Jay Grimstead, head of the Coalition on Revival: "Mr. Regier, as far as I know, was one of the editors on this."
Grimstead disappeared from the Sentinel's Sunday story and hasn't been heard from since.
The question lingers: Did Regier write the document or didn't he? It's not a trivial issue for us Sentinel readers who need solid information on the man Gov. Jeb Bush has picked to clean up the DCF.
I called Smith, who says he didn't interview Grimstead for the Saturday story and therefore didn't include him in the Sunday story. Regier himself denied writing the piece, and that was good enough for Smith. "All you can do is when a guy says, 'I didn't do it,' you quote him," says Smith.
Neither Regier nor Grimstead called me back, so I'll just have to assume that Regier is fine man and an able bureaucrat who would never advocate beating children as punishment (though he does think locking them up as adults is fine, per testimony he gave to the U.S. House of Representatives last summer). If the Sentinel says it, it must be so.