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  1. Florida Politics

Rick Scott's nonanswers bring national ridicule

Published Jul. 17, 2014

The governor's gone viral again.

Rick Scott, who ditched his adopted rescue dog Reagan after the 2010 election, and who invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 75 times in a deposition, once again finds himself all over the Web and cable as the rest of the world discovers what Florida already knows.

He doesn't like to answer questions.

Name a subject, and Scott won't address it.

Climate change. Problems with the state's jobless claims website. How a sex offender slipped through the cracks and got a state license as a massage therapist. Amendment 1, the land and water proposal on the November ballot.

Scott might well revise his campaign slogan to "Let's Keep Working at Obfuscation."

His dilemma is that being ridiculed by national media outlets probably is not a surefire path to re-election. When networks use a big-state governor as a pinata, they're also making fun of the voters who put him in office and perhaps planting seeds of doubt in their minds.

Scott made CNN's "RidicuList," as Anderson Cooper said Scott's evasiveness "insults everybody's intelligence."

MSNBC, with its endless fascination for Florida politics, awarded him a place in its "Canned Response Repetition Hall of Fame."

Both channels ran the same video clip of Scott, eyes open wide, a frozen smile fixed on his face, dodging Tampa TV reporters asking why uniformed, on-duty sheriff's deputies were at a Tampa event promoting his re-election last week. It is illegal for public employees to engage in such activity, and illegal for anyone to coerce them into doing it.

"I'm very proud that last week, police chiefs endorsed me," Scott said earnestly, totally ignoring the question. "I'm very proud that 40 sheriffs have endorsed me."

That's a campaign commercial, not a serious reply.

With his very next breath, Scott said: "So we invite them to our campaign events and I'm very appreciative of the ones that came."

There it is: Scott said his campaign invites on-duty cops to campaign events that they should not attend.

The distinction between an official state event and a campaign event may seem a fine point, but to people who work for the taxpayers, it isn't. Hills­borough Col. Jim Previtera was insistent that he was told he was going to an event with Scott, standing at the governor's bully pulpit, talking about crime prevention.

Previtera has 30 years in law enforcement and his boss, Sheriff David Gee, has endorsed Scott's re-election. Why would he make up a story that might reflect badly on the governor his own boss is supporting?

Scott has significant support from sheriffs and police chiefs who like his record on law enforcement issues. But until November, he's going to have to promote that support someplace other than Tampa.

After the events of recent days, no Hillsborough deputy will want to be within 1,000 feet of the governor.

But if they want to see Scott, it won't be a problem. He's as close as the nearest TV, with a news anchor in the background, snickering.

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

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