Florida Governor Rick Scott’s campaign consultant Joshua Cooper is gaining notoriety on the internet due to a photo of him appearing to mime having sex with a mannequin using a large, phallic-shaped piece of ice.
Cooper has denied that he “used [an] ice penis to hump [a] mannequin,” as the Miami New Times eloquently put it, insisting that the photo is simply the result of unfortunate timing.
“It’s not at all what it looks like,” Cooper has said while trying to set the story straight.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Cooper Says the Photo Is the Result of an Unfortunately Timed Photo During a Barbecue Competition
“That was a photo one of my barbecue teammates took,” Cooper told the Miami New Times. “That was our ice luge. It melted, so I was picking it up and throwing it over the fence there. But from the angle he took the picture from, my teammates thought it looked funny and posted it online.”
Cooper has insisted that he never pretended to mime having sex with the mannequin and that he was simply throwing away a large block of ice when the photo was snapped. He also told the New Times that he blamed his teammates for his newfound notoriety as they were the ones who posted the ill-timed photo online.
2. The Photo Was Taken in May & Cooper Believes His Political Enemies Are to Blame for It Resurfacing
The photo was actually taken and published online in May 2017, but did not catch the media’s attention until recently. Cooper told Miami New Times that his friends had deleted the photo at his request, and that he believed that his political enemies have engineered its resurgence in order to discredit him.
“I was just picking up a piece of ice,” he insists.
3. Cooper Is a Member of a Barbecue Team Named the Swinos & Was a Contestant on MasterChef
Cooper is no stranger to cooking competitions and was attending the barbecue competition in Memphis with his barbecue team, the Swinos. According to their Twitter account, the team’s slogan is, “Getting it moist, and keeping it there.”
In May 2017, Cooper also appeared on the reality TV cooking competition, MasterChef, with celebrity chef and judge Gordon Ramsey.
In an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat, Cooper described cooking as “therapeutic” for him. “One of my big stress relievers, is when I get home at the end of the day, I go into the kitchen — I start creating,” said the consultant.
Cooper is self-taught and largely cooks Southern barbecue, but prepared a reverse-seared filet with shiitake mushroom and gorgonzola cream sauce for his Master Chef audition.
“There’s a lot of science with the way food is prepared and the way it works, but there’s also a lot of creativity in how you plate it and present it,” said Cooper.
He did not ultimately make into the show’s Top 20 contestants, but plans to publish his own barbecue cookbook regardless.
4. He Is a Founding Partner at Strategic Information Consultants & Has Worked For Florida Governor Rock Scott
In 2008, Cooper founded Strategic Information Consultants, a “full service research and communications firm specializing in corporate and political opposition research.”
The year prior, he also founded Next Generation Strategies, a public affairs firm that works with former Illinois Republican Party chairman and political commentator Pat Brady. According to its website, the firm “represents clients in a wide variety of industries including telecommunications, consulting, gaming, health care, software, energy, oil and gas and aviation.”
Cooper has a long history of affiliation with the Republican party. From 2003 to 2004, he worked as the research and communications director for the Republican National Committee. He also served as a Victory Field Director for the Bush campaign in 2004, then spent two years as a special assistant to the Bush-appointed secretary of transportation.
In 2011, his firm came under fire for background investigations it conducted on future employees of Governor Rick Scott’s administration. Scott’s office paid the firm about $25,000 to conduct the background checks, which are usually performed by a state law enforcement agency.
“Either Rick Scott is throwing around taxpayer’s hard-earned dollars to his political consultants for doing nothing or he’s breaking Sunshine Laws,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff.
Scott’s spokesman Brian Burgess denied that the governor had broken any laws, claiming that the governor’s office needed help handling the “thousands” of applications they received.
5. Cooper Lives in Tallahassee With His Four Kids
Cooper has three daughters and one son, and says they are his reason why he started cooking with fresh ingredients.
“My kids are my inspiration, for sure. They’re the reason why I started using fresh ingredients and really moved away from pulling something out of a box and reheating it,” Cooper told the Tallahassee Democrat after he was selected to appear on MasterChef.
“If I can’t pronounce an ingredient, I don’t want to use it.”