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Charlie Crist sets record for fastest flip-flop

In today's edition of the Friday files, we disclose which politician is a descendant of a Siamese twin, which one is a "Pants on Fire" liar, and more.

But first, we have a new record for Florida's fastest flip-flop.

Not surprisingly, the honor goes to Charlie Crist.

The new time to beat: Four hours and 24 minutes.

That's how long it took for the governor to take a stand last week — and then reverse himself.

The clock started Monday morning at 11:04 in the Sentinel's editorial conference room.

As Crist's endorsement interview was winding down, ed-board chief Mike Lafferty asked the governor why he had ignored repeated calls to look into wrongful convictions in Brevard County.

Already, courts have overturned the sentences of three men who spent years, even decades, behind bars for crimes they didn't commit. There may be others, because the same fraudulent — and later discredited — "expert witness" who helped convict them also testified in dozens of other cases. Some are still in prison, while others who are out now have felony records.

Yet, for nearly two years, Crist has ignored repeated calls for an independent investigation to determine how many others may have been wrongly convicted. "Why not?" Lafferty asked Monday.

Crist's response was immediate: "I'd be happy to."

It took him less than a second to offer his pledge. He went on to say it sounded like simply "a matter of justice."

It was practically a Hallelujah! moment.

Finally, we might get answers. Not automatically freed inmates, mind you. But a legitimate investigation into a series of injustices already proven to have occurred.

Except the excitement was short-lived.

At 3:28 p.m. — precisely four hours and 24 minutes after Crist told us he would be "happy" to call for an independent investigation into these rotten cases — his press office wrote to say that, in fact, he would not.

A spokesman said he had conferred with the governor's legal office and decided to stick with its original position that the governor needn't be involved.

One could almost laugh … if the stakes weren't so serious.

Fact-checking

I often receive notes from readers who want more resources for vetting political claims. Well, one of the best is the Pulitzer-prize-winning website, Politifact.com, which breaks down issues, examines accusations and calls out lies.

Particularly fun is its Truth-O-Meter. Here are some examples of recent meter-readings:

Marco Rubio said: "Forty cents of every dollar being spent by the federal government is being borrowed from my children." The Truth-O-Meter ranked that as "True."

Charlie Crist said: "Florida is enjoying its lowest crime rate in 39 years." "Mostly True."

Barack Obama said the Bush administration had been giving auto companies "billions of dollars and just asking nothing in return." "False."

Rick Scott said: "The stimulus has not created one private-sector job." This one got the dreaded "Pants on fire" lie.

Where else are you going to learn that Florida GOP chairman John Thrasher lied when he said that if Scott gets elected, Republicans would be "the first party to elect a bald guy to governor"? (Politifact even included a portrait Harrison Reed, Florida's follicularly challenged governor from 1868 to 1873.)

That Sinking feeling

Speaking of Scott, two things should make him nervous about the big fundraiser that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink had in Orlando on Wednesday night. One was the amount raised — more than $600,000, which host John Morgan described as a local record for Dems. The other was the number of Republicans and GOP fundraisers — more than a dozen, from Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz to former Rich Crotty chief of staff Elizabeth Gianini — who helped host the event.

Joined at the chest

And finally, it is Sink herself who is the answer to the trivia question at the top about Siamese twins. Yes, I know the proper term is "conjoined." But these guys actually were from Siam (now Thailand) originally. North Carolina's Chang and Eng Bunker were the nation's first, settling near Mount Airy, N.C. (better known as Mayberry to you Andy Griffith fans). Chang and Eng married two sisters and had 21 children between them — one of them Sink's grandmother.

Scott Maxwell can be reached at smaxwell@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6141.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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