This article has been updated to include details of a voicemail recording that Rep. Eskamani shared late Thursday with Spectrum News, at our request. The article includes various other revisions.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — State Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando early Thursday shared on Twitter details about contacts she had in 2018 and 2019 from now-embattled former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, including what she called “the weirdest meeting I’ve ever had.”
What You Need To Know
- State rep shares details on Twitter of contacts from embattled Seminole County tax collector
- Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando contends Joel Greenberg "pushed me to have lunch with him"
- She tweets: "You internalize it and just try to avoid that person. I’m not doing that anymore.”
She also shared with Spectrum News a recording of a voice message that she says came from Greenberg and U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz.
"My dear Anna, this is your favorite tax collector," the male voice says in the recording. "I'm up in the Panhandle with your favorite U.S. Congressman, Mr. Gaetz ... and we were just chatting about you and talking about your lovely qualities ..."
Eskamani said those contacts stemmed from a 2018 Facebook post in which Greenberg wrote: “Very simple question...Name just ONE society in the developed world that has benefited in ANY WAY from the introduction of more Muslims. Just one. Asking for a friend."
Eskamani, a Democrat who boasts having become the first Iranian American to serve in the Florida Legislature, said in her Twitter thread that she and others had called out Greenberg for his 2018 Facebook post. She at the time asked for Greenberg’s resignation from his tax-collector position, to which Greenberg, a Republican, threatened to donate to her GOP opponent, according to reports.
“He pushed me to have lunch with him after he kinda/sorta apologized,” Eskamani wrote Thursday in her Twitter thread. “I picked a very public place to meet in HD47 (in the Florida Capitol) — it was the weirdest meeting I’ve ever had, and I’m pretty sure he was high the entire time too.”
She added: “I haven’t shared any of this publicly because for so many women, feeling forced to have lunch with someone you don’t want to have lunch with or getting unsolicited gifts and phone calls, is the norm. You internalize it and just try to avoid that person. I’m not doing that anymore.”
Greenberg today finds himself the subject of a federal investigation in which he stands accused of child sex trafficking, fraud, embezzlement, and identity theft during his time as Seminole County tax collector. He also has been charged with stalking a political opponent.
In a case that reportedly stems from the Greenberg case, investigators say they are looking into whether Gaetz, a political ally of Greenberg who represents part of the Florida Panhandle, had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel, according to reports. Gaetz denies the charges, calling them part of an extortion plot.
Eskamani, 30, a progressive and staunch defender of women’s rights, has emerged as a vocal critic of Republican policies, including those of Gov. Ron DeSantis, and to some as a “rising star” in the Democrat Party.
Eskamani tweeted Thursday that Greenberg called her in July 2019 “and I didn’t pick up (again, I barely talked to him). He left a voicemail and it wasn’t just him, he was with Matt Gaetz too! I shared the voicemail with a few different people because again, it was SO WEIRD and I didn’t realize they were friends.”
In a Thursday interview that involved Spectrum News, Eskamani said she remembered the voicemail from Greenberg because it came on July 4, 2019, the day of then-President Donald Trump’s “Salute to America” military tribute.
She said the voicemail from Greenberg was “essentially him wishing me a happy Fourth, and he says, ‘Oh, there’s someone else here who wants to talk to you,’ and then it was Matt Gaetz, and he said, ‘Hi, Anna. You’re the future of the Democratic Party.’ It was just super weird, super random. And that was the message.”
Eskamani said early Thursday that the voicemail appeared to have been deleted, perhaps by Apple, from her iPhone after almost two years but that she would try to retrieve it. She later said she found it and shared it with Spectrum News, writing in a text message that it was "creepier than I remembered."
In the voicemail recording, the caller mentions that he's with Gaetz, who says, "Hi, Anna ... We think you're the future of the Democratic Party in Florida," and the caller adds, "I KNOW you're the future of it." Then he concludes: "Anyway, if you get this and you feel like chatting, just give me a shout back. Hope you're well, hope you had a nice Fourth. Later."
Eskamani also tweeted Thursday of Greenberg: “He also tried donating $100 to both my 2018 and 2020 campaign — unsolicited by me. I re-donated his first $100 to a Muslim-lead (sic) organization and I refunded the second. We weren’t even in any communication yet he would donate to me. It was so weird!”
In concluding her Twitter thread, Eskamani tweeted: “I’m sure I’m not the only (woman) who has weird AF experiences with people like Greenberg and Gaetz. Share your stories, know you’re not alone. We got your back.”
Messages from Spectrum News to Gaetz’s offices and to Greenberg’s Orlando lawyer, Fritz Scheller, weren’t returned Thursday.
In the interview, Eskamani said about her encounters with Greenberg and why they prompted her to share details on Twitter: “It became pretty clear to me that these were not isolated incidents. And this was an attempt to control me, an attempt to influence me, an attempt to build a relationship with me.
"What the end goal was, I have no idea, but at the same time, no woman or girl should feel uncomfortable in any environment, and there were many moments engaging with him that were very uncomfortable, and so I share that to hopefully inspire others to hopefully share any experiences they have.”