Jill Kelley a professional schmoozer of US military men

E-mail dossier paints Jill Kelley - at centre of Petraeus scandal - as a social climber who used friendships with men to wade into politics

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 3:11am

When Florida radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge claimed he would "deep fat fry a Koran" in response to deadly protests over US troops accidentally burning the Muslim holy book in Afghanistan Jill Kelley was enraged.

The socialite now embroiled in the scandal that brought down former CIA director David Petraeus, fired an e-mail to the Mayor of Tampa in March.

"I just got off the phone with Gen. Allen and Adm. Harward," she wrote, referring to General John Allen, commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, and Vice Admiral Robert Harward, deputy commander of the United States Central Command.

Kelley wrote that Allen and Petraeus, then-CIA director, were "e-mailing me about getting this dealt with".

The eagerness displayed by Kelley - who was also an honorary counsel for South Korea - to help resolve the Bubba the Love Sponge problem is another reflection of how close she had grown to top US military officials at MacDill air force base - and how she has used those connections to gain special privileges.

"I have Petraeus and Allen both e-mailing me about getting this dealt with," Kelley wrote to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn of the Koran issue. In a brief reply, Buckhorn said Tampa's police chief planned to talk to the radio station manager about it.

"Ok. Can you keep me in the loop?" Kelley wrote back. "Gen Allen will be calling me from Afghanistan at 1pm on this - and our next step."

Whether Petraeus, Allen and other military leaders actually called on Kelley in such matters could not be verified. No evidence indicates Kelley was anything more than friends with the commanders she courted, but e-mails released on Thursday by Buckhorn raise questions about why senior officials came to trust her.

The e-mails portray Kelley as a name-dropper and social striver.

Her e-mails to Buckhorn are often blithe, peppered with "LOLs", emoticons and breezy shorthand. They reflect a relationship that began weeks after Buckhorn took office in April last year, when Kelley hosted a reception for him at her white- columned mansion on Tampa's exclusive Bayshore Boulevard.

In e-mails to Buckhorn, Kelley referred to herself as "Ambassador to US Central Command's Coalition", a position that she told Buckhorn included hosting various distinguished visitors who travelled to Tampa.

The MacDill base is home to the US Central Command, which runs military operations in the Middle East and South Asia.

Military sources said Kelley and five other Tampa-area residents were given the title of honorary ambassador. The designation did not come with any special privileges, although - until this week - Kelley did have a pass that allowed her onto the base.

A South Korean official said in Seoul Kelley had US State Department approval for her appointment as honorary Korean consul in Florida.

The official said the State Department put its imprimatur on her appointment after the Korean foreign ministry named her to the position in August. Kelley caught the eye of the former South Korean ambassador to the US, Han Duk-soo.

The official portrayed Kelley as fitting the ideal for an honorary consul. "She's a social person, very active in the social scene."

Tampa social life also provided what all concerned must now consider a regrettable photo: of Holly and David Petraeus posing with the Kelleys at a party at their house, bedecked in beads.

For the hosts, the bash must have represented the pinnacle of a campaign to establish themselves in Tampa society. The Petraeuses arrived with a 28-cop motorcycle escort and were flanked by security who, according to reports, were required at some point to Taser another guest.

McClatchy Tribune, Reuters, The Guardian