Gillum, who ran for Florida governor in 2018 and was defeated by Republican Ron DeSantis, quickly landed a gig at CNN as a political commentator after his loss. However, he vanished from the network in 2020 after he was found “inebriated” in a hotel where baggies containing suspected crystal methamphetamine were also recovered.
He is now accused of acting in concert with associate Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks to solicit funds using false representations and promises.
“The Indictment further alleges the defendants used third parties to divert a portion of those funds to a company owned by Lettman-Hicks, who then fraudulently provided the funds, disguised as payroll payments, to Gillum for his personal use,” a Justice Department press release said.
The Justice Department did not go into details of the allegations, only to say the alleged scheme went on from 2016 to 2019. Local reporting from the Tallahassee Democrat indicated that the charges are based on campaign contributions that Gillum and Lettman-Hicks allegedly solicited from undercover FBI agents.
Gillum is also charged with making a false statement to the FBI. It’s the latest debacle for the former CNN contributor who is no stranger to negative attention. But Gillum was beloved by Democrats and their allies in the press before his swift fall from grace.
Top Democrats, including President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Obama, endorsed Gillum’s failed Florida gubernatorial bid and hailed him as a man of character. He was also backed by billionaire George Soros, and received endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Many pundits and news organizations followed suit.
Current MSNBC host Symone Sanders appeared on CNN in August 2018 and called Gillum “amazing,” and Esquire magazine published an October 2018 feature on Gillum headlined “A star is born.”
Jonathan Capehart said on MSNBC that Gillum was “authentic” and would resonate with voters because of it, while “Morning Joe” namesake Joe Scarborough praised Gillum’s performance during a 2018 debate.
“His performance skills are very, very high. DeSantis’ are not. Around this race, there’s energy around this new face. Andrew Gillum is a fresh face in Florida even though he’s been mayor for a while up in Tallahassee. People are just meeting him. He’s electrifying the Democratic base,” MSNBC’s John Heilemann responded to Scarborough.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid claimed in 2018 that many of her Republican friends were voting for the staunchly liberal Gillum because they “love his presentation” and the way he speaks “inspires” them.
Three days later her colleague Nicolle Wallace said that she believed both Texas Democratic Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke and Gillum were the “two best candidates” running in the election cycle. Both of them went on to defeat that fall and have not held office since.
Meanwhile, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough praised Gillum’s debate performance against DeSantis and wondered how high his polls might go up after voters saw him speak.
“If Mayor Gillum was up 12 points before that debate it’d be interesting to see how high those numbers go after the debate because that one wasn’t even close,” Scarborough said, citing what turned out to be a wildly inaccurate survey that showed Gillum with 54 percent support to DeSantis’ 42. The final RealClearPolitics average of polls found Gillum up by 3.6 percentage points in 2018 before his narrow defeat.
The Miami Herald published an Oct. 2018 piece titled simply, “Andrew Gillum will be a governor for all Floridians,” in which the paper’s editorial board endorsed the Democratic candidate. Vox eventually declared Gillum could be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.
Gillum was also celebrated by pop music superstar Rihanna, who endorsed Gillum on Instagram where she has a staggering 132 million followers.
“You have the opportunity to make history this election. The US has only had four black Governors in its entire history, and we can help make #AndrewGillum the next one and Florida’s first! If you’re tired of feeling like you don’t matter in the political process, know the most important thing you can do in supporting a candidate is finding someone who will take on critical issues such as: making minimum wage a livable wage, paying teachers what their worth, ensuring criminal justice reform, making healthcare a right, and repealing Stand Your Ground. That’s a platform we MUST support,” Rihanna wrote on Nov. 4, 2018.
In 2020, Gillum entered rehab after the incident when police found him unresponsive in a Miami Beach hotel room with two other men, where officers found what they believed to be crystal meth. While he denied using drugs, Gillum did admit to struggling with alcohol. Gillum who is married, has also since come out as bisexual.
State officials also brought an ethics complaint against Gillum in 2019 after finding probable cause that he committed ethics violations by accepting gifts from lobbyists in 2016.
In a statement issued by his campaign and published by the Tallahassee outlet, Gillum denied wrongdoing regarding the indictment.
“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” Gillum said . “Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political.”
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.