BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - The campaign of Florida Gov. Rick Scott is disputing what caused the delay of Wednesday's night televised debate with former Governor Charlie Crist.
Crist was alone on stage for nearly 10 minutes at the start of the debate at Broward College. Moderators hosting the debate told the audience that Scott was refusing to take part because Crist had an electric fan under his podium.
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But in an email sent out to campaign supporters, hours after the debate ended, Scott's campaign manager, Melissa Sellers, maintained that Scott "never refused to take the stage."
Sellers also said that the campaign was "not notified" that Crist had taken the stage. She said they were told Crist was talking with debate organizers about the fan.
Scott's late entry into the debate prompted ridicule and widespread attention nationally and on social media.
WFTV was told that Crist uses an electronic fan at public appearances to avoid sweating.
The Crist campaign sent out the debate rules, which do not mention fans being a violation.
Early on, Scott played into his record on jobs and the economy, pointing to Crist for the downturn.
"He didn't want to call on companies. He didn't want to do tough things, he didn't want to cut regulation," Scott said.
The candidates took opposing sides on the same-sex marriage question during their latest debate.
Scott told the statewide television audience Wednesday that he supports traditional marriage but ultimately it is a question the courts will decide.
Crist said he supports same-sex marriage, but agreed the courts will decide.
During rebuttal, Scott pointed out that when Crist served as the governor from 2007-2011 as a Republican he opposed same-sex marriage. He noted that Crist later told reporters his opposition to same-sex marriage was for political expedience because he was then a Republican.
When the candidates were asked if justice was served when neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder for fatally shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin last year, Crist used the opportunity to suggest amending the stand your ground law, which allows use of deadly force if people are in fear for their lives.
"Everyone believes in that American premise and it is the right thing to do to defend yourself and your property," Crist said. "But when it gets to the point where you have a statute on the books that allows the instigator ... to end up killing another human being after they started the incident, there is something fundamentally wrong with that law."
Scott said Martin's death was tragic, but the law should remain as is.
"I believe in the right to defend yourself. I can't imagine losing a child like that, but I have talked to sheriffs and police chiefs," Scott said. "I stand with them that we need to have the existing law in place."
After the debate, the electric fan situation was still front and center on social media, with the trending hashtag "Fangate."
"This silly 'fangate' distracted people from the issues of the day," said Sen. Dan Gelber (D) of Miami.
Neither Scott nor Crist met with the media after the debate.
But in an email, Sellers wrote, "Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave, and toaster to debates - none of that will cover up how sad his record as governor was compared to the success of Rick Scott. Crist should buy a fan for the 832,000 Floridians who lost their jobs while he was governor."
Polls have Republican Scott and former Democrat Crist neck-and-neck in Florida's governor's race, so both sides saw the debate as an important night for their campaigns.
The debate was held at Broward College, in south Florida, a key area both campaigns said they have to win in November.
The debate also had a social media segment, through which topics came from people watching the debate.