“What just happened?”
That’s how NPR member station WLRN in Miami summed up last night’s gubernatorial debate in Florida, which started with a shot of an empty stage. The audience thought it was a joke and then we learned that Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and his challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Democrat, had come to an impasse over a fan that Crist had inside the podium.
It’s a train wreck and it’s worth watching:
“The former governor avoids visible perspiration by bringing a small fan with him to speaking appearances, even small engagements like a meeting with the Miami Herald’s editorial board this past August.
“Scott’s camp said debate rules forbid electronics. Crist’s camp said the set of rules they signed allowed for the fan.”
So who’s right? According to Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association, which organized the debate, Crist broke the rules, which said that the event venue would be maintained at a comfortable temperature so there would be no fans allowed. The day of the debate the temperature was 67 degrees.
Citing a statement from the organizations, The Miami Herald reports:
” ‘Between 6 and 6:20 p.m., someone from the Crist campaign placed a fan under Charlie Crist’s podium, and they were again told that no fans would be permitted,’ the statement said. ‘Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association did not anticipate or plan for the possibility that a candidate would not honor the Debate rules. In retrospect, the Debate Partners should have been better prepared for this possibility. In addition, we regret that one candidate was allowed to take the stage and allowed to talk before the fan issue was resolved.’
“When Crist’s fan was spotted, it outraged Scott’s team.
“Moments before the show went live, Scott debate coach Brett O’Donnell was visibly upset when he walked up to the debate moderators brandishing a copy of the debate rules.
” ‘The rules say no fans. Are you going to abide by the rules?’ ”
Of course, we know that the fan was all about optics. (Remember Richard Nixon?) So, the question now is which candidate is harmed by the bizarre beginning to this debate?