UPDATE: Florida State Sen. Mike Bennett is out with a response to a controversy sparked by a video report capturing footage of the Republican lawmaker looking at images of scantily-clad women during a Senate debate over abortion restrictions.
A statement released by Bennett painted the incident as the product of "an innocent act" and blamed the reporter who came out with the story for misconstruing what actually happened:
Last week, during final deliberations on the Senate floor to fulfill my sworn duty to do the people's business, I opened e-mails sent to me and discovered one disturbing and offensive transmission that I immediately moved to the trash.
Unfortunately, this reality was not enough to dissuade an internet-based reporter from taking an innocent act - opening email -- and sensationalizing it into something it never was in an attempt to smear my reputation. As for the reporter, his refusal to let the facts get in the way of a good story speaks for itself.
Nobody is sure how it got there, but it was certainly there -- four bikini-clad women, staring back at Bennett from the computer screen of his state-issued laptop.
Last Thursday, Sunshine State News filmed Bennett opening a page that contained the picture during a floor debate on a controversial abortion bill.
Bennett told the State New that he was just as surprised as anyone:
"I was just sitting there, bored as they were debating the abortion bill," Bennett said. Then, he opened an email, which Bennett says was from a woman "who happens to be a former court administrator."
"I opened it up and said holy [expletive]! What's on my screen? and clicked away from it right away," Bennett told the State News.
Senate spokesperson Jaryn Emhof explained the incident to the State News: "He thought it was an email about an item being debated on the Senate floor. As soon as he realized it wasn't he closed the page."
However Bennett got to the image, in the video he does appear to click away from the page fairly quickly, only to open up another movie clip of what appears to be a dog shaking off after going for a swim.
Bennett ended up voting against the abortion bill, saying that it would only make women "feel more miserable about this tough choice."