“Everybody comfortable here?” Jake Tapper asked impishly of Florida gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Rick Scott at the start of tonight’s debate in a Jacksonville TV studio. It was a reference to the last time the two men squared off, when there was a “flap over a fan and viewers were blown away!” as CNN Voiceover Guy said breathlessly tonight in the minutes leading up to tonight’s CNN-hosted square-off.
Sadly, for casual viewers of political debates, the fun ended there, as the two men began hurling accusations at each other about having grown up with money, flip-flopped between political parties, run a company that committed more than a billion dollar’s worth of Medicare fraud, delayed an execution so as not to coincide with a political fundraiser — nasty stuff.
Last week, the nation was introduced to Charlie Crist’s fan fetish, when Crist broke the rules at another debate and snuck a fan into the hall. Current Fla. Gov. Scott hung out backstage in protest, causing Crist to get seven solo minutes on stage, bewildering the moderator who called it “the most unique beginning to any debate not only in Florida, but anywhere in the country.”
CNN’s been doing its best to keep the fan-flap storyline alive in the days leading up to tonight’s debate:
According to the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida — organizer’s of last week’s debate — the Crist campaign did break the rules. “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 two groups acknowledged they “did not anticipate or plan for the possibility that a candidate would not honor the Debate rules,” which allowed for no electronic devices to be used by the candidates, and which both parties had agreed to, the organizers said contritely in a statement after the fact. “In retrospect, the Debate Partners should have been better prepared for this possibility.”
Crist’s campaign coughed up a copy of the debate agreement after the debate, showing they’d added the handwritten note: “*with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary.” The temperature on stage at the time of the debate’s start was 66 degrees. Back to organizers falling on their sword, who added, “In addition, we regret that one candidate was allowed to take the stage and allowed to talk before the fan issue was resolved.”
In the days following the hijacked debate, journalists came out of the woodwork to talk about their run-ins with Crist’s fan, and photos emerged of Crist and his fan — everywhere, including Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace told Fox’s Brian Kilmeade last Friday that Crist insisted on having a fan by his side when he appeared recently on Wallace’s show, speculating Crist may require a fan for “psychological” comfort rather than temperature.