Palm Coast Mayor Eddie Branquinho’s sarcasm can be difficult to detect behind a Portuguese accent that lilts toward reminders that the 65-year-old’s English is not his first language: he didn’t pick it up until he was nearly 20, and learned it on his own. As with many an immigrant who came late to the “language that which none is sublimer,” as Ogden Nash described American speech, his syntax, his old-continent allusions, even his intonations can trip over his more textual, less imaginative New World listeners.
There was the story he told at an April 13 council meeting of his father’s vinegar and honey bottles–the huge honey bottle and the vinegar bottle “which is not that big.” It took a while to figure out the allegory of diminishing patience. There was the July meeting when, even as he was schooling fellow-councilman Victor Barbosa on his sarcasm–“I don’t know if I should kill you with kindness, or indulge you with my sarcasm”–he told an interrupting Barbosa that he’d give him “plenty of rope” when he meant to say “plenty of time” to speak–and did it twice.
Then there was the end of today’s meeting, which had not lacked its share of forked tongues. Branquinho lavished praise on Gov. Ron DeSantis’s visit at the opening ceremonies Friday of Palm Coast Little League’s hosting of the state championship at the Indian Trails Sports Complex. “This visit from the governor was phenomenal,” the mayor said.
Then he continued: “I didn’t like his last visit that happened about, maybe, in May, when he came to town, and he apparently told Melissa Holland that if she didn’t quit, he was sure–he was going to bring her some criminal charges. And then not happy with that, nonchalantly, I didn’t believe that he went to a, to Flagler Beach, and had lunch at the restaurant where Milissa Holland’s daughter was working as a waitress. Having that said, I don’t think I have anything else to say.”
It was of course vintage Branquinho sarcasm, dripping from that vinegar bottle of his, a direct reference to the bogus claim by fellow-Councilman Ed Danko that DeSantis had threatened Holland, the former mayor, either to resign or face criminal charges, a claim DeSantis’s communications director ridiculed as she refuted it, and that Holland’s daughter, who had a liver transplant in 2019, is not “that sick” and was waiting tables in Flagler Beach–a claim Holland’s daughter herself refuted today.
Branquinho, a retired detective, delivered his coda with the sort of poker face that could throw anybody. But if some listeners were briefly taken in by the first part, the clue to the obvious sarcasm was the DeSantis hop to Flagler Beach for lunch at Holland’s daughter’s workplace, which obviously didn’t happen, but couldn’t have happened without it having been blared in every news venue. Branquinho thought he’d been obvious.
Mayoral candidate Alan Lowe, who has the Midas touch of disinformation (see here, here, here, and here), couldn’t resist. Shortly after the meeting he posted on his Facebook page: “Wait…. What??!!!! 2:14 mark–Eddie Branquinho states that the Governor did come to town in May and talk to Holland?” The accompanying clip shows Branquinho’s minute.
Lowe’s eyebrow didn’t twitch alone: at least one commenter on FlaglerLive’s Facebook page raised the question about a DeSantis trip in May following Branquinho’s comment, and was corrected. If Lowe hadn’t been sure about the sarcasm, he might have checked with Branquinho directly, who would have immediately disabused him of the fantasy, as he did others, and made the post unnecessary. But Lowe’s intention appeared not to have anything to do with verification and much more to do with slinging attention away from himself, since he and Danko, who is running his campaign, had originated the lie.
“That was sarcasm, and to call Danko a liar,” Branquinho said this evening. “Now I got to call this guy a liar too, on his Facebook.”
Branquinho took the unusual step of addressing Lowe’s post directly to Low, in a comment on Lowe’s page: “Don’t usually comment on Facebook, but if you Mr. Alan Lowe could not see the sarcasm……… Then you are also ringing bells with the same lies that Councilman Danko is,” he wrote. “Shame on you for trying to take advantage of a sick child and using her for your political gain. Let me be clear, Governor De Santis did NOT come to Palm Coast, did not tell Mayor Holland that if she did not quit he was going to criminally charger, the Governor did NOT go to Flagler Beach and have lunch at Tori’s place of work. Once again SHAME ON YOU. By the way, if you filter or erase this post, I will brake one of my cardinal rules and post it on my timeline.”
As of this evening, Lowe had let the comment stand, likely because it had achieved its aim: it fueled sparklers of criticism of Branquinho, still allowed the bogus claim to be amplified, and deflected from Lowe’s and Danko’s responsibility as birthers of the lie, if only on his page: “IF that was sarcasm you need some pointers on how its done,” “absolutely disgraceful to mock a fellow council members!,” and from Jan Reeger, the former Bunnell city commissioner, writing in all-caps, “there is nothing in this clip to indicate sarcasm. It appears you validated the lie.”
And then a contribution from Barbosa, to whom irony is as foreign as his fellow-councilman’s sarcasm: Branquinho “should stop acting like a clown and start doing his job as acting Mayor City Hall is not the place for comedy hour. Klufas ran a better meeting.”
Or as the poet Fernando Pessoa put it, “it’s enough metaphysics to think of nothing.”