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Mike Bennett's 4 second ('Porn?') problem

The Sunshine State News gets all TMZ in the Florida Senate. On Thursday morning, during debate on what sounds like an abortion bill, the new Capitol web outfit captured video images of Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, looking at what appeared to be a Girls-Gone-Wild-type pic on his computer.

The image of the scantily attired beach-babe foursome was up for about 4 seconds before Bennett closed it, according to the SSN video. Bennett said the image "popped up" when he clicked an email sent from an old friend to his private account. He said he closed it as quickly as possible, but it wasn't "porn" as SSN reports.

"I didn't know it was in there. As soon as I realized what it was, I shut it," Bennett said. "I don't know how many girls there were, what they looked like or what they were wearing. I have no idea what the picture looked like because when I saw what it was, I closed it. I had (Sen.) Eleanor Sobel behind me on one side and Sen. Frederica Wilson on the other side. On the side of me is (Sen.) Nancy Detert, who has expressed her dislike for me for a long time. And then there's the Democrat, Dan Gelber, who's running for Attorney General. And we were all talking about these issues. Are you out of your mind? There is no way that anybody would knowingly open up something like this in that situation."

He forgot to add that there were others behind him: The press with a video cam. In the background of the video, Gelber's voice says: "It disrespects too many women in the state of Florida." He's talking about the bill. Not the pic. In its news story, SSN reports Bennett also saw a video of a dog running out of the water. We're not sure if that's considered 'porn' either.

SSN wanted to see Bennett's emails, but he and the Senate declined, saying the personal email information isn't public record. 

The Sunshine State News isn't mainstream media, has unknown investors behind it and told Lucy Morgan a few months ago it would "emphasize business and politics." Yet in the first drafts of the SSN story, the reporter doesn't know it's Gelber talking. Strange. The outfit that wants to cover politics doesn't know the name and voice of one of the most talkative senators who's running for attorney general. The video was shot at an impressive angle (it was likely shot close to the wall dividing the press and west visitors gallery). The reporter had to be at the right angle as well as the right place at the right time, considering that Bennett often has a privacy screen on his computer that blocks side views of his screen. And what's with the black bar across the pic? It was super-imposed. If all the women are clad in bikini tops (at least one is), the black bar obscures that and makes it look racier, wrong, censored. Editor John Wark said the image was altered because it displayed bare breasts.

Bennett said the pic is a cautionary tale of the dangers of the internet. He said he's sure someone will use this against him in a "misleading" way. So get ready for a political mailer bearing a screen-grab of Bennett in front of his laptop. 

"Do you know what's on every email before you open it? None of us do," he said. "This could happen to anyone."

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