T A L L A H A S S E E, Fla., May 14, 2001 -- Gov. Jeb Bush, facing published reportsabout infidelity as he ponders re-election, dismissed rumors today of an extramarital affair with an agency head as an"outright lie."
"I cannot tell you how hurtful this is," Bush said in responseto a reporter's question following a bill-signing ceremony. "Ilove my wife. There is nothing to this rumor. It is an outrightlie." Bush, the younger brother of President Bush, also saidtoday he plans to announce next month whether he will seekre-election in 2002. He said he would make the decision aftersitting down with his family and talking about the toll the jobtakes on his private life.
For months, talk in Tallahassee bars and state offices andInternet Web pages linked Bush with Cynthia Henderson, secretary ofthe Department of Management Services. Today's comment was hisfirst public response to the rumors. On Thursday, a columnist for the Tallahassee Democratreported about a rumor of an affair involving two high-ranking public officials but did not identify them. Over the weekend, two other papers —the St. Petersburg Times and the Orlando Sentinel — wrote about therumors involving Bush and Henderson and said Bush had denied them.
"Lies were spread by gossip. Sadly, it's reached the pointwhere it's being written about," Bush said. "But the fact youhave to ask that question and I have to answer is sick, it reallyis." Bush, 48, has been married to Columba Bush for 27 years. Theyhave three children. Henderson, 40, met the governor in the 1980s through his brotherNeil, who was on the board of directors of a land developmentcompany where she served as corporate counsel. Henderson alsoserved on the board of director's of Jeb Bush's think tank, theFoundation for Florida's Future. Bush originally appointed Henderson to head the Department ofBusiness and Professional Regulation in January 1999. During herfirst year on the job, she faced questions about her ethics inrunning the agency on several occasions. Last September, Bush transferred Henderson to the Department ofManagement Services, a lower profile agency that oversees statefacilities and insurance and retirement programs for stateemployees. Bush at that time said the criticism of Henderson wasunjustified and had nothing to do with his decision.