Andrew Gillum’s career as a rising star of the Democratic left looked to be in jeopardy on Saturday as retweets from Donald Trump fueled the fire of an episode in which the politician was found by police in a hotel room with a male escort who was treated for an apparent drug overdose.
Gillum, a progressive former Tallahassee mayor who narrowly lost a 2018 run to be Florida’s governor, apologized for being too intoxicated to talk to officers at the Mondrian South Beach hotel in Miami early on Friday, after police were called to a “medical incident”.
A police report said Gillum, 40, was discovered throwing up in a bathroom and his companion, Travis Dyson, 30, received CPR from paramedics in the room where the officers also found three bags of presumed crystal methamphetamine.
No charges were filed and Gillum, who joined CNN as a political analyst after his election defeat, released a statement in which he said he had too much to drink at a wedding reception and thanked first responders. He asked for privacy, to spend time with his wife and three young children.
Trump, however, was keen to not let the story fade away. Between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning the president promoted three tweets by the conservative commentators Candace Owens and Larry Elder, all mocking Gillum.
In another tweet on Saturday, Trump, who engaged in a war of words with Gillum during the 2018 elections and branded him “a stone cold thief” for allegedly accepting free theater tickets, praised Owens as “great”.
Owens was first to reveal the Gillum story in a series of tweets on Friday morning that contained information and assertions about the circumstances of the incident and the individuals involved that were not contained in the police report.
According to that report, paramedics were called by a third man, named as Aldo Mejias, who provided the credit card Dyson used to book the room. Mejias told officers that when he arrived he saw Dyson collapsing on to the bed and saw Gillum vomiting in the bathroom.
Dyson, 30, whose profile on a male escort website was deleted on Friday afternoon, was taken to Miami’s Mount Sinai hospital in a stable condition, the report said.
Officers “attempted to speak to Mr Gillum [but] Mr Gillum was unable to communicate with officers due to his inebriated state”. Later, the report said, “Gillum left the hotel room and returned to his residence without incident” after a welfare check.
Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez told the Miami Herald that though the suspected drugs were in plain sight, no arrests were made because “no one was in physical possession of those narcotics”.
In his statement, Gillum said: “I was in Miami last night for a wedding celebration when first responders were called to assist one of my friends. While I had too much to drink, I want to be clear that I have never used methamphetamines.
“I apologize to the people of Florida for the distraction this has caused our movement,” he added, referring to Forward Florida Action, a voter registration advocacy group he founded to boost Democratic efforts to beat Trump in November.