A new website, the Broward Bugle, is reporting extensively on the Broward Sheriff's Office, always in glowing terms about the new sheriff, Scott Israel. But is it a legitimate news source or just political propaganda?
The Broward Bugle bills itself as "your new source for political and governmental news." But it began as a campaign site for Israel, reporting glowingly about him while slamming his opponent, former Sheriff Al Lamberti. And its "staff writers" use fake names and its "publisher" goes by George "Gabby" Hayes, a gag on the offbeat Western film actor.
Sources tell Local 10 that Roger Stone, who strongly supported Israel and involved in behind-the-scenes PACs that funded negative ads against Lamberti in the race, is behind the website. In an email, Stone admitted he had "influence" over the website but said he doesn't own it.
Stone began his career as a dirty trickster for Richard Nixon and more recently served as the political director for now-imprisoned Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein. He is close with Israel's campaign strategist Ron Gunzburger, whom Israel appointed as BSO general counsel and who had a hand in some of the early Bugle pieces.
Israel, who has been interviewed repeatedly by Bugle "reporters," said he had no direct connection to the website and claimed he wasn't aware that it was used as a tool by his campaign supporters. He said he may have spoken with Stone about the Bugle in the past but always considered it a legitimate news outlet.
"If fake names are being used, then red flags are going up and it's something we will need to look into," said Israel.
Whatever the truth behind the Bugle, Nova Southeastern University law professor Bob Jarvis, who has co-authored a book about the history of BSO, said past sheriffs and their supporters have a history of trying to manipulate the media.
"Because at the end of the day, they are political animals who have to run for reelection," said Jarvis.