The governor wants to know whether nudist Walt Zadanoff broke the law by selling videos of young girls.
By JAMES THORNER
Published July 26, 2003
LAND O'LAKES - Gov. Jeb Bush has called for an investigation of Pasco County resident Walt Zadanoff, a prominent nudist who has sold videos of elementary-school-age girls participating in naked beauty pageants.
In a letter Friday to Daryl McLaughlin, interim commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Bush's office sought answers to whether Zadanoff broke the law when he sold the videos, produced in Europe.
Bush's general counsel, Raquel A. Rodriguez, asked law enforcement to report its preliminary findings within 30 days.
"Obviously, we're dealing with underage children, and the governor is concerned and wants to get as much information as soon as possible," Bush press secretary Alia Faraj said.
Zadanoff's case came to the governor's attention after U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's office called the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday to complain about the videos.
The tapes, produced in countries such as Russia where child protection laws differ from those in the United States, feature girls under such categories as "teens," "junior teens" and "junior miss."
Zadanoff defended his right to market videos portraying what he called social family nudism, but admitted that he buckled under pressure from Foley and other critics.
On Thursday, the day the story broke in the Times, Zadanoff pulled the pageant videos from his Web site.
"I wasn't going to out of principle," Zadanoff said Friday, after fielding requests from news outlets around the country. "But this is getting out of hand."
He complained that the videos have been misconstrued as morally wrong when they show nothing more than nonsexual nudism. "There is nothing illegal. Nevertheless the investigation taints you. People only remember the negative. They don't remember the positive," Zadanoff told the Times.
Foley's office said it went after Zadanoff because he's the former president of the American Sunbathing Association, later renamed the American Association for Nude Recreation.
The association sponsored a nude summer camp for 11- to 17-year-olds in June at the Lake Como nudist resort in Pasco. Last month, Foley denounced the camp as a threat to children, citing reports that a potential pedophile was ejected for spying on campers.
Association officials took pains to point out that Zadanoff finished his term as their president in 1992, a year before the nude youth camps even began.
Zadanoff argued that his case is being politically sensationalized, despite the fact that he's only one distributor among many of such nudist videos.
"It's just so ludicrous," he said. "I'm being hung out to dry, and I can't help it."