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Aide to new lawmaker quits after Fla. schools scare

A conservative radio host tapped to be chief of staff for an incoming Florida congressman stepped down from her new job, a day after 300 schools were locked down when a threat was linked to her show.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A conservative radio talk show host tapped to be chief of staff for an incoming Florida congressman stepped down Thursday from her congressional job, a day after 300 schools were locked down when a threat was linked to her show.

Joyce Kaufman announced on her live show that she would not be Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Allen West's aide because she wanted to avoid any repercussions against him for her statements. Kaufman is known for making controversial pronouncements on her show and told a recent Tea Party rally that if "ballots don't work, bullets will."

"Sometimes I have a big mouth," she said on her Thursday show. "Sometimes I say things that I wish I had either said differently or not said at all. I think that's part of my charm. It also gets people in a lot of trouble."

Kaufman, 56, has been on South Florida radio for nearly 20 years. She "considers herself fiercely independent and is not ashamed of putting America first, like real liberals used to and our weak-kneed politicians and some so-called conservatives claim to," according to the radio station's biography. She also carries a .357 magnum.

West's selection of Kaufman to lead his staff was a surprise — she's never worked in government. But she was an early backer of West and was often his warm-up speaker at rallies. West, like many Tea Party candidates, pledged to work outside the Washington and political establishment. He issued a statement Thursday saying he deeply regretted Kaufman's decision not to take the job, but didn't address the controversy.

Kaufman didn't return telephone messages for comment.

It's not clear whether anything Kaufman has said prompted the threat. All authorities have said was that schools were locked down after an e-mail was sent to her at WFTL AM on Wednesday, claiming "something big was going to happen," possibly at a post office or a school.

The e-mail contained the ranting of a very extreme out-of-control person, and mentioned gun rights and contained hate messages against ethnic and religious groups, police and school officials have said. The e-mail was found after an unidentified woman called the station and said her husband might go to a campus and open fire with a gun. Dozens of officers were sent to protect the schools, but nothing ever happened.

On Thursday, authorities were interviewing a person who may have sent the e-mail to the radio station, Pembroke Pines Police Capt. Daniel Rakofsky said. Police are not identifying the person, who is in custody but is not cooperating.

"The name given in the e-mail and phone call (to the radio station) may not be an actual person. We've not been able to prove that person exists," Rakofsky said.

Kaufman said she has received death threats since the lockdown and claimed liberal media were bent on bringing down conservative politicians.

"What they're trying to do is bring down West," she told listeners. "I will not be complicit in this effort to diminish his stature in attacks against me or endanger myself or others by serving as his chief."