Florida Representative Explains Why He Publicly Forgave Teenager Who Tweeted a Death Threat About Him

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., left, speaks during news conference as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., listens, Friday, June 3, 2016, in Doral, Fla. Rubio and fellow Curbelo predicted Friday at a news conference that the Zika crisis will escalate over the summer if funding is not increased. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

On Thursday, October 25th, a 19-year-old man named Pierre Alejandro Verges-Castro was arrested for tweeting a death threat about Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL); one week later, Curbelo appeared with the teenager to express forgiveness and to urge unity and respect.

Verges-Castro, a registered independent, tweeted, “I will kill Carlos Curbelo” on Wednesday, October 24th. (Incidentally, this was the same day that bombs were mailed to several high-profile Democrats and Trump critics, so tension and fears were high.)

Curbelo responded to the tweet:

The tweet was later deleted, and Verges-Castro was arrested the next day.

For most politicians, that would have been the end of it.

Instead, Curbelo held a press conference with Verges-Castro on Thursday, although only Curbelo spoke.

“I’m going to take some questions,” Curbelo said. “Pierre still has an open case with the State Attorney, so he will not be speaking today. But once his case is resolved, I’m sure he will have plenty to say.”

The Miami Herald reported that Curbelo made the following comments during the press conference:

“What Pierre did is very serious. My wife in particular was disconcerted. We have two young daughters, and like any family, we worry about our safety and security, especially in light of all the acts of violence we are seeing throughout our country.

“During our conversation, I asked Pierre what led him to express himself in such a hateful way. He mentioned some issues he had in his past. He also mentioned the toxic political culture of our times. While none of this excuses what Pierre did, putting his actions in context makes them easier to understand. We simply cannot continue down this path.”

“Let us be respectful and sober in our conversations, our debates, and especially in our social media interactions. Let us reject the voices that seek to divide and conquer, those who put personal and political gain before the good of the country. Let us again be a confident, happy, trusting people and a beacon for all in the world who believe in freedom and democracy.”

“And as for Pierre, I wish him the best. He made a mistake, and his life shouldn’t be ruined because of it. I truly believe in second chances. I am hopeful Pierre will become a model citizen who is now in a unique position to be a part of the force for healing that our community and our country so desperately need.”

Curbelo appeared on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” the next day, where he discussed the incident and forgiving Verges-Castro.

“I think healing is the most important thing that can happen in this country,” Curbelo told Chris Cuomo. “First, I wanted to understand why it is someone would say something like this or express themselves with so much hate. And secondly, I’d really like to try to turn this into something positive.”

Curbelo later added, “I hope that this young man can also share his story and we can all learn from it, and it can help put us down a better path — because I’m really worried about things in our country these days.”

Curbelo is up for re-election tomorrow. He is running in Florida’s 26th congressional district, where he was first elected in 2014.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.