Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At luncheon, Gov. Rick Scott's remarks offend some black lawmakers

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott welcomed African-American legislators to lunch Tuesday at the Governor's Mansion, but his choice of words left some feeling more alienated than ever.

In discussing his own humble origins, Scott suggested all black lawmakers grew up poor.

"I grew up probably in the same situation as you guys," Scott said to the group of 20 Democrats. "I started school in public housing. My dad had a sixth-grade education."

Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, said she was offended by the remark, but did not protest at the time because she said it was more important to have a productive dialogue with the new governor.

Afterward, she said, "He assumed that everyone (in the room) was poor and that can only be because you're black."

Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, said Scott's choice of words was unfortunate even if he was trying to "empathize" with the black caucus.

"Some of us might be from the projects, but we come from all spectrums of life," Gibbons said.

"I grew up in the projects, too," said Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando. "I would hope he would be sensitive to his own background. We don't want a handout, but some jobs."

For an hour over lunch, the lawmakers voiced opposition to Scott's plans to end state support for two historically black colleges, to abolish a state office that helps minority-owned businesses get state contracts and to lower unemployment benefits and health care funding for the poor. They also expressed concern that Scott so far has not appointed any black agency heads and asked him to stop using the term "Obamacare."

To the issues raised by the group, Scott was unyielding.

• On funding: "We don't have unlimited dollars," he said, repeatedly emphasizing his No. 1 priority, creating jobs, which he said would benefit all Floridians.

• On lack of diversity in his appointments: He said philosophy — not skin color — would drive his decisions. "I don't believe in quotas," Scott said. "I didn't pick Jennifer Carroll because of the color of her skin. I'm going to pick the best people I can find."

• On the health care law: "It's Obamacare to me. That's what it is," Scott said. When lawmakers asked him to call it by its formal title, the Affordable Health Care Act, Scott said: "You know, when I'm on Fox, they never call it that." Scott was on Fox News again Tuesday, his third appearance in 17 days, and he slammed Congress for not repealing the law. The lunch's lightest moment came when Scott jokingly called it the "Non-Affordable Health Care Act," and lawmakers applauded.

Scott is a conservative Republican who dislikes government, and most black lawmakers are liberal Democrats who believe in the power of government to help people, especially the poor.

The luncheon had a number of tense moments, even though Scott's lieutenant governor, Carroll, is an African-American and well-liked former House member. She was seated across from him at the mansion's long, rectangular dining room table.

Asked to appoint more black judges, Scott said: "If you think I'm going to pick someone who's different from my judicial philosophy, it's not going to happen."

He rejected a request by Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, to preserve the Office of Supplier Diversity, which helps minority-owned businesses get state contracts and is funded by fees paid by minority vendors.

"That's a tax," Scott said.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, praised Scott for selecting new public safety chiefs who believe in emphasizing prevention over punishment.

"That's why they're there," Scott said of corrections chief Ed Buss and Wansley Walters at Juvenile Justice. "We've got to do a better job of keeping people out of prison."

Times/Herald staff writer Michael C. Bender contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

At luncheon, Gov. Rick Scott's remarks offend some black lawmakers 02/15/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 7:16am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Forecast: Less stormy weather to start week in Tampa Bay before chances ramp back up


    After some stormy mornings throughout the weekend across Tampa Bay, Monday kicks off pretty quietly with a cloudy, yet mainly dry start.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Florida education news: #HB7069, 'Robin Hood' funding, the search for teachers and more


    WHAT NEXT? Every year, new state laws hit the books that have to be implemented once they take effect. But House Bill …

    Over 600 new Hillsborough County teachers listen to superintendent Jeff Eakins during an orientation in July 2016.
  3. Water Hogs: During drought, hundreds of Tampa Bay homes guzzled a gallon of water a minute


    When Amalie Oil president Harry Barkett plunked down $6.75-million for his Bayshore Boulevard mansion, he picked up 12.5 bathrooms, a pool, a hot tub, an elevator and a deck bigger than some one-bedroom apartments.

    During one of the worst droughts in the Tampa Bay region's history, hundreds of houses used more than a gallon of water a minute. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times

  4. PolitiFact Florida checks out Rick Baker's talking point about the growth of St. Petersburg's A-rated schools


    Rick Baker has used mailers, forums and social media to relay one big message in his campaign for St. Petersburg mayor: Schools in St. Petersburg saw drastic improvements when he was mayor from 2001 to 2010.

    Rick Baker, candidate for St. Petersburg mayor
  5. Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelly talks family, songwriting and more before Tampa show

    Music & Concerts

    A while back at the Grammys, Charles Kelley found himself in the same room as Paul McCartney. The Lady Antebellum singer, a seven-time Grammy winner in his own right, couldn't work up the courage to say hello.

    Lady Antebellum perform at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Friday. Credit: Eric Ray Davidson