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Politics

Crist says 'no' to DNA test to settle claim

The biological mother of an adopted girl says he is the father.

By STEVE Bousquet
Published January 26, 2007


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photo
[Times photos]
The governor says there's no way he's the father. Rebecca O'Dell Townsend said the girl was fathered by Crist after a one-time encounter in 1988.

TALLAHASSEE - While traveling the state Thursday, Gov. Charlie Crist brushed aside questions about whether he's the biological father of an adopted 17-year-old girl.

"There's nothing to it," Crist said as he entered a hotel in Tallahassee to give a breakfast speech to directors of Enterprise Florida.

Asked if he would consider taking a DNA test to settle the issue, Crist said: "No, no. Obviously, this is a product born out of a political attack in the fall. It's very over."

Crist was in two other cities, where he did ceremonial signings of the new insurance law he formally signed in Tallahassee. In North Palm Beach, Crist dismissed the matter.

"It's unfortunate when things like that come up," he said. "But, you know, it's a campaign thing that somebody carried forward. There's absolutely nothing to it, and I'm not going to give it anymore dignity and answer any more about it."

The questions arose in response to an article in Thursday's St. Petersburg Times about a St. Petersburg family that tried to contact Crist when they realized their daughter could be the child at the center of an old paternity dispute involving him.

The girl, who was not identified because she is a minor, appears to be the child who was born to Rebecca O'Dell Townsend then Wharrie in 1989. Townsend said Crist fathered the child during a single sexual encounter in the fall of 1988.

Crist said it was "not possible" for him to be the father and denied paternity in two court documents signed in 1989 in which he also waived parental rights so the girl could be adopted.

Those documents surfaced in last fall's race for governor, in which allies of Crist's opponent, Tom Gallagher, circulated copies of the confidential adoption records to reporters around the state.

When the story hit the newspaper, the girl's adoptive parents, Marshall and Cecilia Tucker, were struck by several similarities to what they knew of their adopted child's biological mother.

Convinced that their teenage daughter is Townsend's biological child, the Tuckers feared they would be discovered by Crist's political enemies and sought to alert Crist. Their daughter wanted to meet Townsend, and perhaps also Crist.

Over several months, the Tuckers reached out to Crist using intermediaries - all friends or acquaintances of Crist's.

Crist and those close to him did not respond.

Cecilia Tucker, who used to write a teen-oriented column for the Times, issued a statement Thursday referring to Crist as their daughter's "alleged biological father."

"Contact with the Crist family was attempted only to notify him of our daughter's desire and plan to contact her biological mother over Christmas," Cecilia Tucker wrote.

"Therefore," Cecilia Tucker's statement said, "our contact with Governor Crist's family was out of respect to the governor and in our minds a professional courtesy. If we had meant to harm Charlie Crist, we could have made this all public before the election. We were only asking for a response that he had personally received the information."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

[Last modified January 26, 2007, 05:51:41]


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