Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush Calls Affair Rumor 'Lie' Governor Takes Unusual Step to Counter Capital Gossip

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush Calls Affair Rumor 'Lie' Governor Takes Unusual Step to Counter Capital Gossip

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Saunders, Times-Union staff writer

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush yesterday took the unusual step of publicly denying a rumor that he is having an extramarital affair with a state department head, calling the rumor an "outright lie."

The rumor of an affair between Bush and Cynthia Henderson has spread through Tallahassee in recent weeks and popped up on the Internet -- though no proof has been offered.

Bush decided to make a public denial after newspapers began writing about the rumor last week. The governor, who has been married for 27 years, said it was "sickening" that he had to deny the rumor.

"I have been faithful to my wife," Bush said. "I love my wife."

It is unclear how the rumor got started.

Bush and his Republican supporters said they think political opponents have spread the rumor. But Tony Welch, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party, rejected the possibility that his party was involved.

"The party's concentrating on beating Jeb Bush on the issues," Welch said. "We're not going to have a part of anything else."

Bush made the denial yesterday after a bill-signing ceremony in the Capitol. The governor was responding to a reporter's question about the rumor, but it was hardly a spur-of-the-moment discussion: He called some reporters Friday to deny the rumor, and the Orlando Sentinel quoted a Bush spokeswoman Sunday as saying he would be prepared to address the rumor yesterday.

Department heads -- including Henderson, the secretary of the Department of Management Services -- flanked Bush during the ceremony. As she left, Henderson said the rumor was false.

Bush's wife, Columba, did not attend the ceremony, though she rarely takes part in such events.

Rumors about the personal lives of state officials are common in Tallahassee, a town that is largely built around state government and two state universities. Stories about drinking habits or sexual exploits can be repeated for years, though they often cannot be substantiated or reported.

"Rumors beget rumors, and Tallahassee is absolutely the worst place in the world for rumors," said former House Speaker John Thrasher, an Orange Park Republican who is a close friend and political ally of Bush. …

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