On Friday, I arrived at The Daily Beast’s New York City headquarters to find a small package on my desk.
Inside, an odd present: a paperback copy of The Scarlet Letter, and a note:
Olivia—In advance of the announcement, wanted to make sure you had a copy of Jeb Bush’s social agenda. —Holly Shulman Democratic National Committee
It felt like a prank.
Shulman responded to an email inquiring whether the DNC had actually mailed The Daily Beast a copy of the 1850s Nathaniel Hawthorne classic, wherein adulterous women are made to wear red A’s on their chests. “Haha. Yeah. I thought you would like it,” she wrote. “Some light reading for the summer!”
Or some heavy trolling of the establishment favorite for the Republican nomination.
In 2001, a bill, which would overhaul Florida’s adoption regulations, made its way to Governor Jeb Bush’s desk.
Within the reforms was a provision that came to be known as the Scarlet Letter law, because it required women who wanted to put their babies up for adoption—but did not know who the father was—to publish an extensive, detailed list of recent sexual partners in their local paper, as a means of “provid[ing] greater finality once the adoption is approved, and to avoid circumstances where future challenges to the adoption disrupt the life of the child.”
Bush did not endorse the legislation and he didn’t sign it. In an April 17, 2001 letter to Secretary of State Katherine Harris (PDF), he wrote that one of its “deficiencies” was the “shortage of responsibility on behalf of the birth father.” But he didn’t veto it, either.
It became law under his watch, and now Democrats are trying to make sure it becomes a problem for him as he prepares to formally announce his candidacy on Monday.
News of the law came to light on Tuesday, with a report by The Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett.
Since then, the DNC has been having a field day with email blasts, a Medium post titled “Shame on Jeb Bush,” and now with this little gift to The Daily Beast.
“It was our idea here at the DNC,” Shulman said. She laughed when asked who thought up the stunt.
“So basically this is literally a page from his social agenda. Bush has promoted policies that promote shame, that advocate shaming women and draws—literally draws—on a book from the 1850s.”
A spokesman for Bush, Tim Miller, responded to the DNC in an email: “It was a democrats bill from The chairman of the DNCs home state. Gov Bush’s record is of helping single moms get child support payments, giving more choices to kids low income households stuck in failing schools, and reforms to help victims of domestic violence. I think that record speaks for itself.”
This is the worst Christmas ever.