Miami New Times // Jerry Ianelli
Look, not wanting to be associated with Donald Trump right now is totally understandable. After years of eating little but cake, overcooked flank steak, and McNuggets (and refusing to exercise due to a set of nutritional beliefs that appear to date from Elizabethan England), Trump’s brain seems so oxygen-starved that you can goad him into doing whatever you want — willfully admitting he fired his FBI director to kill a corruption investigation; giving up deeply classified intelligence during a boast-fight with the Russians; doing the Kid n’ Play dance with Rodrigo Duterte; anything, really. We’re about a month from Trump tweeting out the nuclear launch codes just to brag about how many numbers he can remember.
But if you supported Trump during his rise to power, you don’t get to wash that stink from your resumé. We’re looking at you, Miami State Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz. Now that Diaz is officially gunning for a promotion and running for state Senate, the lawmaker has conspicuously scrubbed his Twitter page of an infamous photograph with himself and the Donald.
On January 19, 2017, Diaz tweeted out a photo of himself locking hands with Trump at an inaugural party. The tweet got a fair amount of press: The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau even blogged about it.
“Just ran into the first guy who ever fired me,” Diaz tweeted. “The next president of the United States @realDonaldTrump #Apprentice #POTUS #ElPresidente”
But now, the Tweet and photo are both scrubbed from Diaz’s Twitter page. It’s not clear exactly when the photo was removed, but as of May 15, Twitter lists the post as “deleted,” and the post is no longer showing up on websites where it had previously been embedded. The fair assumption is that Diaz, who was up until last week a visible Trump booster, is worried about the image that would project to voters in Florida’s 40th State Senate District. Especially since Hillary Clinton crushed Trump in that district 57 percent to 40 percent in 2016, and political analysts speculate that rising anti-Trump anger could flip the seat blue during this year’s special election.
The photo remained on Diaz’s Facebook page. Democratic activists noticed the deletion yesterday — and quickly started reposting the photo, in a clear case of the “Streisand Effect,” in which an attempt to delete an image from the internet ends up drawing far more attention to it.
Some crucial background: Diaz has closer ties to Trump than most state legislators. Before getting elected to office, Diaz’s major claim to fame was being on season five of The Apprentice. But he did not fare well: After what can only be described as a Dali-esque nightmare of bathrobes, breakfast cereal, and robot-dancing, Trump fired Pepi, as he was known on the show, for grossly mismanaging his own team of mouth-breathing reality stars.
As a reward, Diaz was elected to office. He ran for state representative, won, and has since made a small cadre of pals among Miami’s fellow state representatives. (A few of those same friends rushed to defend former state Sen. Frank Artiles when that lawmaker got caught dropping N-words and paying Hooters’ waitresses as “consultants” earlier this year.) Diaz now chairs the Dade delegation, the influential group of GOP Miami state lawmakers.
Rumors had flown that Trump himself was going to appoint Diaz as Miami’s top federal prosecutor after former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta left to become Trump’s Secretary of Labor. But after Artiles resigned due to his generally being a tornado of racism, liquor, and sexual rapacity, Diaz announced last week that he’s officially throwing his hat in the ring to take Artiles’ job.
Diaz has yet to respond to a call from New Times about why he took down the Trump photo. But, as a total favor to Diaz, who must have deleted the image by accident, we’re now preserving the photo in our archives permanently.