1. Florida Politics

Rick Scott gets national airtime, visits state Emergency Ops Center

With Hurricane Irma affecting much of southern Florida by Sunday morning — making travel unsafe — Gov. Rick Scott remains in the state’s capital city.
From the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Rick Scott reviews his talking points before a four-hour stretch of TV interviews on national morning shows on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. [Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times]
Published Sep. 10, 2017
Updated Sep. 10, 2017

TALLAHASSEE -- With Hurricane Irma affecting much of southern Florida by Sunday morning — making travel unsafe — Gov. Rick Scott remains in the state’s capital city.

He’s staying busy — spending four hours going from national TV interview to national TV interview, with the state Emergency Operations Center as his photogenic backdrop.

His line-up started at 7 a.m. and includes almost all of the networks, several more than once: NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The Weather Channel, Fox News and Fox Business. (No MSNBC.)

Meanwhile, Scott has spent his morning appearing on national network and cable morning shows. He won’t brief state and local press in Tallahassee until noon.

He began his day with a 6:45 a.m. weather briefing and will have another at 11:15 a.m.

His schedule for the rest of the day has not yet been released. However, it was revised at 7:50 a.m. to reflect a 7:35 a.m. call with President Donald Trump.

For the national interviews, Scott sits in a small, locked conference room adjacent to a media briefing room where reporters work. Both rooms have a glass wall of windows overlooking the main operations room at the EOC, which is full of desks and a wall of projection screens used to coordinate the state’s hurricane preparation and response.

Scott is largely repeating talking points he’s said for days — urging Floridians to be safe and prepare for dangerous storm surge and high winds.

TV producers and Scott’s staff were hurriedly preparing for his morning show appearances since before 6 a.m., phoning networks to confirm broadcast connections and arranging seating and lighting for how the governor would look on camera.

Around 8:45 a.m., Gov. Rick Scott popped in the main room at the state Emergency Operations Center for a few minutes to address several dozens emergency response personnel.

As has been the case all week for any storm updates or briefings in that room, reporters were barred from listening — save for pressing their ears to a glass wall and hoping to catch the words.

A reporter from the Naples Daily News was able to discern Scott say: “We’re going to get through this,” and “we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Under past administrations and even as recently as Hurricane Matthew last fall under Scott, reporters were allowed in the EOC room to observe and report information from storm briefings and Scott’s visits.

But staff at the governor’s office and the Department of Emergency Management have denied access for Irma, even when it’s forecast to be far worse.

Just before 2 p.m., Scott made another brief appearance in the EOC.

He spoke for a couple minutes with state meteorologist Amy Godsey, while reporters were invited to observe and take photos and video.

Scott then talked with reporters casually for a few minutes more, before he had to leave the room for a conference call regarding the hurricane.

It was the first time state and local reporters have been allowed into the main room of the state Emergency Operations Center since it was activated for Hurricane Irma — save for occasional individual interviews with key personnel that are coordinated through the governor’s press team.