Well, the internet seems to think Buckhorn's joke about machine-gunning the press crossed a line

Was it the timing, the sexism or the Trumpian implication that members of the media deserve to be shot?

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Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn at a recent news conference. - Kate Bradshaw
Kate Bradshaw
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn at a recent news conference.

If we're not mistaken, the last time a story about Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn made the front page of Reddit (a big deal in some circles), it was when the city arrested members of Food Not Bombs for sharing food with the homeless.

This weekend, the social media spotlight wasn't any kinder to him.

The controversy centers on comments he made during last week's Special Operations Industry Conference, the Tampa Bay Times' Howard Altman wrote on Friday, in which he seemed to reminisce over pointing a blank-loaded machine gun at members of the press during a military exercise in which Buckhorn was taken "hostage."

Per Altman's report:

“And so the first place I point that gun is at the media,” he told the crowd. “I’ve never seen grown men cry like little girls, for when that gun goes off those media folks just hit the deck like no one’s business. It’s great payback. I love it.”

Altman, who was there for the incident (MacDill, military and veterans issues are his beat and have been for years), said nobody cried "like little girls" or "hit the deck."

Needless to say, members of the press in the room — some of whom have lost colleagues while covering actual wars — were appalled, especially in this day and age, when President Trump constantly threatens to target the press despite the First Amendment, and journalists are being jailed by despotic regimes in places like Turkey, Egypt and China.

It might have been meant as a lighthearted jab Buckhorn figured would do well in a room full of military people, especially given military members' overwhelming support of Trump, whose supporters tend to believe the media are treating the president unfairly. Buckhorn himself is a vehement critic of Trump, so hating on the media is...common ground, then?

While Buckhorn may have been trying to play to his audience (who fucking knows?), the internet disagreed.

By Sunday afternoon, Altman's account reached the front page of Reddit via the mega-popular FloridaMan subreddit, and comments — some of them from users who claim to be members of the military or gun rights enthusiasts (we say "claim" because the site's users are anonymous) — abounded.

"Jesus fucking christ [sic], considering the audience at such an event I'm surprised he's not catching more flak. Never, EVER point a gun at something you don't intend to shoot," read the top comment on the story. "What a fucking imbecile."

"I'm totally surprised the servicemen that were on that boat with him allowed him to do that. I mean, it's incredibly well known and basic the first rule of firearms is treat every gun like it's loaded and never point it at people. Even blanks at close range can kill. This guy is a fucking nut job and makes firearm enthusiasts look awful," read another.

To his credit, Buckhorn is one of those rare individuals in politics who has a blunt, biting sense of humor and isn't afraid to use it (nor is he afraid to stick up for the underdog). And as Altman notes in the Times piece, he has a pretty good relationship with the local press. He regularly makes himself available to members of the local media and doesn't seem to openly hold any grudges against those who have given his administration negative coverage in the past.

These days, though, it's all too easy to say something that gets taken seriously even if meant in jest.

We also have to point out how, as a father of two daughters, ribbing "grown men" for "crying like little girls" — whether true or not — is a tad off-color. Don't little boys cry easily and often, too?

Buckhorn, a Democrat, is rounding out his second term as Mayor of Tampa. On the heels of winning reelection with little in the way of a challenger, he was largely speculated to have been a likely contender in the 2018 gubernatorial primary. But earlier this year, he held a press conference announcing he would not be running for governor.

The polarized political climate that doesn't bode well for moderates like him, he told reporters then.

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