KENNER, LA (WVUE) - Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni insists that many of the allegations against him in a teen sexting scandal are fictional, but he remains apologetic after what he calls his stupid decision to send "off-color" messages to the boy last year.
Yenni spoke to FOX 8's Lee Zurik in an exclusive interview Tuesday afternoon. The following passages are transcribed directly from that interview.
ZURIK: WHAT WAS YOUR INTENT?
YENNI: My intent?
ZURIK: WHEN YOU TEXT HIM?
YENNI: I can't… I really can't answer it. I mean, it was just… it was a stupid action. It was a stupid action to even get into this form of text messaging. It was something… something that I can't explain why I did it.
The texting scandal first spread on social media after a college student posted an online story about an encounter with a politician he called "Kevin."
ZURIK: IS THIS ABOUT YOU?
YENNI: That is a story that was written for a tabloid. And there are a lot of elements of that story that I truly believe are certainly fictional. It was written for a prize, a monetary prize, to get the most 'likes'. One of the examples that they cited from the previous winner was… it could have fictional parts, and you could certainly put those types of things into it. You wanted to be as salacious as possible. So, I mean, my message on that is, that was a story written for a monetary purpose.
ZURIK: SO, WHAT IS FICTION IN HERE?
YENNI: It would be… for me to go line by line, Lee, and say…
ZURIK: BUT LIKE… THERE'S GOT TO BE SOME BIG THEME. LIKE, IF YOU WANT TO BE HONEST WITH PEOPLE AND TELL PEOPLE WHAT REALLY HAPPENED, THEN… YOU KNOW, THIS HAS CIRCULATED ON FACEBOOK, WHEREVER. SO, FOR PEOPLE TO KNOW THE TRUTH AND TO KNOW, YOU KNOW, HOW TO JUDGE YOU, HOW TO EVALUATE YOU, SHOULDN'T THEY KNOW WHAT'S THE FICTIONAL PART AND WHAT IS NOT?
YENNI: And again, to go line by line so that a reporter from across town can get someone under anonymity and say, 'Oh, well that's not true, he said that didn't happen. That did happen.' And we could play this game all day long, because that's what's already happened. I've been accused of things that are not true. What I apologized for is what I did. I sent inappropriate text messages…. One thing that the author of that story and I can absolutely agree on is that there was no sex. That is… that's clearly stated, it was in other reports, there was no sex. And you know, there is a lot of people in this day and age that I think are voyeurs, and they want to know all these illicit details and they want to think and… People put things into people's mouths of what they say happened that didn't really happen. But that's the clearest thing that I can possibly bring up, is that there was no sex. This is about inappropriate texting.
ZURIK: DID YOU BUY HIM UNDERWEAR?
YENNI: Again, there are fictional elements to that story, Lee. I agree, I hear what you're saying.
ZURIK: BUT I'M JUST ASKING, YES OR NO? IT'S A YES-OR-NO QUESTION.
YENNI: I'm not going to get into the line-by-line, I'm not going to debate it because what's going to happen is…
ZURIK: BUT WHY WON'T YOU BE TRUTHFUL AND JUST SAY, YES OR NO? DID YOU BUY HIM UNDERWEAR?
YENNI: Because, like I just said, a reporter from across town is going to get somebody under anonymity, and he's going to say, 'Oh, he denied that. But no, that's true, that happened.' And it's my word against their word.
ZURIK: THIS IS ABOUT US, OUR INTERVIEW, AND THIS IS ABOUT YOU TALKING TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS, THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR YOU AND, QUITE FRANKLY, THE PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T WHO YOU REPRESENT, WHO WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH. SO WHY WON'T YOU… IF IT'S FICTION, SAY IT. IF IT'S NOT, SAY IT.
YENNI: That is… Again, that is a story that was written with fictional elements of it. A lot of salacious things in it, no question there was salacious things in it. The important thing I think everybody needs to know out of that story is that there was no sex. The day that story hit the airwaves or was printed or whatever, most of my, I guess, political opponents put it all over their Facebook page that day. So, if that's not a clear direction that there were people working against me, for something like this, to try to get these things out, and allude to the fact it was me, and all these things – there are a lot of, in my opinion, fictional components to that story. There are things in there I can't even speak to.
ZURIK: HOW DID YOU MEET HIM?
YENNI: You know, it was through a text message.
ZURIK: WHO TEXTS WHO, THE FIRST TIME?
YENNI: It was… it was a joint text where there was other parties involved that sent the text.
ZURIK: SO, DID YOU SEE HIM AT A GRADUATION EVENT AT JESUIT?
YENNI: Absolutely not. I never saw him at any high school function, never spoke to him at a high school function, I don't know where that came from. All this…all these innuendos that I'm banned from Jesuit High School - my wife and I were just there a couple of weeks ago at an event.
ZURIK: SO THERE, YOU JUST CONFIRMED SOMETHING THAT'S FICTIONAL IN THE STORY, THOUGH.
YENNI: Well, that's also been reported by other media outlets. And that's why I'm confirming that, because other media outlets have absolutely confirmed and said, oh, he's been asked not to go to Jesuit events and banned from Jesuit High School.
ZURIK: NO, BUT THE PART ABOUT MEETING HIM AT JESUIT. DIDN'T HE SAY HE MET YOU, IN HERE, AT A JESUIT EVENT?
YENNI: I… I'm saying that I did not meet him at any high school function, as was alluded to by media outlets.
ZURIK: SO THEN WHY… I MEAN, WHAT ARE YOU SENDING THE TEXTS, EXPLICIT MESSAGES TO A 17-YEAR-OLD FOR, THEN?
YENNI: Like I said Lee, a stupid decision. A stupid decision to send a text to, in my opinion, another consenting adult, that we had…. We had some off-color texts.
ZURIK: DID YOU MEAN WHAT YOU WROTE?
YENNI: Probably not, because nothing was acted upon. You know, there was... there was no sex, you know? Everybody thinks, oh, something sexual happened. But there was no sex. They think these things… they think things were acted upon. They think there was, you know…. this was over a period, you know, the total time frame, probably less than two weeks. And if you had to get down to it, off and on, probably less than four days.
ZURIK: SO, IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO ACT OUT ON IT, WHY DO IT?
YENNI: Exactly what I ask myself every day.
ZURIK: WHAT DO YOU ANSWER FOR YOURSELF?
YENNI: That is one of the stupidest decisions that I've ever made.
ZURIK: DID YOU KNOW HOW OLD HE WAS WHEN YOU WERE TEXTING WITH HIM?
YENNI: At no time did I ever think he wasn't a consenting adult.
ZURIK: SO, YOU THOUGH HE WAS, WHAT…
YENNI: A graduate of high school, someone going to college. Never, never did I think that he was not a consenting adult.
ZURIK: AND YOU'VE NEVER INTERACTED WITH ANYONE WHO WASN'T… YOU'VE NEVER INTERACTED IN THAT WAY WITH ANYONE WHO WAS NOT A CONSENTING ADULT.
YENNI: Oh, no, no, never.
ZURIK: YOU'RE TEXTING A HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE. YOU'RE… HOW OLD WERE YOU AT THE TIME?
ZURIK: AT 38, YOU'RE MARRIED. YOU HAD TO KNOW, IF THAT GOT OUT, IT WOULD RUIN YOU, RIGHT?
YENNI: You know, I probably… I probably was not thinking about that at the time. Like I said, I don't know why I did it.
ZURIK: BUT WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT YOUR JUDGMENT AS A… NOT ONLY AS A HUMAN BEING BUT AS AN ELECTED OFFICIAL? IF YOU CAN DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT AND NOT THINK ABOUT HOW THAT IS GOING TO AFFECT YOU, WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT YOU AND YOUR JUDGMENT?
YENNI: That was a poor decision that I made.
ZURIK: BUT HOW DO WE KNOW YOU'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE FUTURE POOR DECISIONS? NOT EVEN THIS, BUT OTHER POOR DECISIONS?
YENNI: Because, in my almost-17 years' government, this is… a mistake I made in 17 years.
ZURIK: THIS IS IT, IN YOUR MIND?
YENNI: This, in my mind, yes, this is it. This is a mistake that I made that I shouldn't have done, being a married man, being a father and being an elected official.
ZURIK: IS THE THEN 17-YEAR-OLD, NOW 19-YEAR-OLD… IS THAT PERSON A VICTIM?
YENNI: No, I don't believe so.
ZURIK: WHY IS THAT?
YENNI: Because it was text messages back and forth. I don't think at any time was any… did anybody feel uncomfortable in the messaging back and forth. So, I don't look at it as a victim.
ZURIK: WAS… WAS HE PLAYING ALONG, IF YOU WILL?
YENNI: Again, he was a consenting adult and having texts with me. I mean, I don't know.
ZURIK: HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU MEET HIM?
ZURIK: AT THE MALL?
YENNI: I met him one time.
ZURIK: AT THE MALL.
YENNI: I met him one time, Lee.
ZURIK: HOW LONG WAS THE MEETING?
YENNI: Very short.
ZURIK: OK. SO, YOU TRADED TEXTS WITH HIM FIRST AND THEN YOU MET HIM AT SOME POINT? WAS IT A SCHEDULED MEETING OR YOU JUST HAPPENED TO BE THERE?
YENNI: Not a scheduled meeting.
ZURIK: SO, THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO BE HONEST. AND THE FACT… IF YOU DON'T ANSWER A QUESTION, PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO DRAW THEIR OWN CONCLUSIONS. SO THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO ANSWER IF THAT'S TRUE OR NOT, AND ANSWER WHY.
YENNI: The story was written for a monetary purpose, to win a prize. There are a ton of fictional elements in that story.
ZURIK: AND WE'RE ASKING, WHAT IS FICTIONAL AND WHAT IS NOT? I THINK THAT'S FAIR TO ASK, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU WANT TO COME CLEAN.
YENNI: Right. Again, I apologized for what I did wrong.
ZURIK: AND YOU'RE SAYING…
YENNI: I text-messaged.
ZURIK: AND THAT'S ALL YOU'RE APOLOGIZING FOR.
YENNI: Because that's what I did wrong.
YENNI: That's what I did wrong.
ZURIK: HE ALLEGED A KISS, TOO.
YENNI: There was no sex, there was no sexual contact.
Yenni also criticized attorney Robbie Evans, who launched the recall effort against him last month.
YENNI: I think what they've done is a not-so-veiled attempt at gay bashing. That's my opinion of all of this. I really believe that, the way they've thrown these words out there, and the way... the way they've tried allude to certain things… by trying to define me as a person I'm not. By his pleadings…
ZURIK: WHAT DO YOU MEAN, A PERSON YOU'RE NOT?
YENNI: Like, in other words, what he's trying to say in his pleadings, 'He is a pedophile, he is an admitted homosexual. And that is not true. I've never admitted that. It doesn't define me either.
ZURIK: WHAT DO YOU MEAN, IT DOESN'T DEFINE YOU?
YENNI: To simply say, I'm not gay.