Adam Hollingsworth sometimes gave an aw-shucks self-deprecating line when he gave advice: “I’m just a guy with a p.r. degree from Alabama.”
It was a lie.
And it caught up with Hollingsworth, now Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff, when The Miami Herald-Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau exposed the academic fraud on Friday.
Hollingsworth didn’t just verbally deceive people. He twice explicitly allowed his former employer, CSX Corporation, to issue press releases in 1998 and 2002 saying he graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree.
Hollingsworth had no degree at the time. He earned one years later.
“I am not proud of this and I deeply apologize for this misrepresentation,” Hollingsworth said in a written statement. “I have learned from this failure in judgment and know that, over the last several years, my life and character have and will continue to grow from this.”
Is Hollingsworth now telling the full truth?
Something noteworthy clearly happened after Hollingsworth unexpectedly left CSX to work for Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton in 2004: he stopped lying about his academic record.
Why the sudden decision to become honest about it? If he hadn’t been caught lying at CSX, how would the corporate tipster know about the deception, which Hollingsworth kept secret for years?
Hollingsworth won’t explain. CSX wouldn’t comment.
Hollingsworth has shown he’ll keep a lie secret until caught. He didn’t tell the governor about his “misrepresentation” until the media busted him.
Cover-ups often compound the crime of a lie, but Scott is sticking by him, saying in a statement that he has “confidence in Adam as my chief of staff, and my friend…I know him to be a man of tremendous integrity and character.”
Considering Hollingsworth is his third (and most-effective) staff chief, Scott is running out of replacement options as he faces reelection.
In this election atmosphere, Hollingsworth is no longer just someone shaping politics and policy behind the scenes. He’s now a political issue in a campaign season where Scott and his Democratic challengers are calling each other untrustworthy.