The temperature’s rising in the Florida gubernatorial race.
Gov. Rick Scott (R) lost his cool on Wednesday night when he initially refused to debate his opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), because Crist brought a small fan to his podium.
Neither candidate was present at the start of the debate at Broward College, prompting the moderator to call it an “extremely peculiar situation.” Then Crist walked out on stage alone.
“We have been told that Governor Scott will not be participating in this debate,” the moderator said. “Now, let me explain what this is all about. Governor Crist has asked to have a small fan placed underneath his podium. The rules of the debate that I was shown by the Scott campaign say that there should be no fan. Somehow there is a fan there, and for that reason ladies and gentlemen, I am being told that Governor Scott will not join us for this debate.”
“That’s the ultimate pleading of the fifth I’ve ever heard in my whole life,” Crist said to cheers from the audience.
Scott emerged to join the debate after about six minutes, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
After the debate, the Crist campaign posted a copy of the rules the candidate signed that includes a note reading “with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary.”
The Scott campaign disputed that the governor refused to debate Crist.
“So, let’s get one thing clear: Rick Scott never refused to take the stage and debate. In fact, our campaign was not notified Charlie had even taken the stage because the last we heard, Crist was in an ’emergency meeting’ with debate organizers pleading for his precious fan,” campaign manager Melissa Sellers said in a news release. “But Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave, and toaster to debates – – none of that will cover up how sad his record as Governor was compared to the success of Governor Rick Scott.”
Crist’s fan has long been a fixture on the campaign trail, as the Atlantic’s Molly Ball chronicled. During a 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary debate, Crist’s rival Tom Gallagher said it was “not fair” that Crist was allowed a fan and held up the proceedings for several minutes until he could procure his own.
This post has been updated.