Rick Scott Vs The Press: An Insider's Viewpoint
Florida Governor Rick Scott has had some notable difficulties with the Florida press while in office. Since the beginning of January, Scott has restricted press access at his events, kicked the press out of his post-inaugural event, picked journalists that were favorable to his positions to cover him, and instructed press not to publish "frivolous blog items."
Over the weekend, Political Correction attended two Tea Party rallies in Florida, both of which Scott spoke at. Out of the two days of events, Scott held one quick gaggle for reporters on the second day, fielding softball questions such as "What can we do to help you?"
It's disheartening to learn how Scott has limited the press in Florida. In an email to Political Correction, A 30-year veteran reporter from St. Augustine, Peter Guinta, described the situation surrounding Scott's Tax Day Tea Party rally:
There was no press access to Gov. Scott at the Tea Party rally - at least not for me. After his speech, Scott stood behind a large bank of loudspeakers and spoke to a gaggle of reporters in a low voice while the next speaker on stage was screaming absurdities. I could not hear a word of what Scott was saying. How any other reporter got anything either I have no idea. Also, Scott's staff also seemed disinterested in allowing us access. I approached a female aide of Scott's to ask how to gain even a tiny bit of time away from the stage. But I didn't even get that much out. She smiled, gave me her name, turned and walked away.
As Thomas Jefferson once noted, "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." Scott, a Tea Party favorite, doesn't seem to share the same values and respect for the Constitution that the Founding Fathers had, not to mention the Tea Party movement itself. The Founders held such high respect for freedom of the press that the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights includes a segment saying that "Congress shall make no law abridging ... the freedom of speech, or of the press." By treating the press with disdain, Scott disrespects the Constitution, the words of the Founding Fathers who heralded the importance of the Fourth Estate in our society, and the members of the Tea Party who helped elect him.
Another Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, thought so highly of the press that he wrote a poem entitled On The Freedom Of The Press, which contains the lines, "For those who use the Gag's Restraint/First Rob, before they stop Complaint." Scott has used the "Gag's Restraint" by pushing the press away and leaving reporters out of the loop.
"To Scott, the media is a painful trial and better left in the dark as far as possible," says Guinta. "Access has been granted to a few favorites and those who are kinder to him or who ask softball questions. We are a faceless minefield to him, I believe. My experience is that most Republicans are indeed forthcoming with interviews. Just not Scott." Guinta went on to praise former Governor Jeb Bush as being the "most accessible by far."
Scott said Saturday,"Most important thing is one, hold me accountable. I ran on a specific platform. And then let people know what you believe." The press is trying to hold Scott accountable but is finding it increasingly and unnecessarily hard. But as Mr. Guinta pointed out, "If he'd face the music honestly, I think reporters would give him a fair shake. Trying to snuff the press out only makes reporters more determined to dig."