Rick Scott Awkwardly Ignores Heckler at Tea Party Rally
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Rick Scott had a microphone and speakers, but Everett Wilkinson, a Bill McCollum plant, had a loud voice and a mission.
During a tea party rally Wednesday, Wilkinson, a tea party leader from a different group began heckling Rick Scott.
He and a friend held up signs that asked, "Where is the Deposition?" and "What about Solantic?"
From the moment Scott arrived, Wilkinson started speaking over him, interrupting him every 5 to 10 seconds. "Where's the deposition, Scott? ... What about the deposition? ... What about your bailout?"
For a movement that's struggled to gain credibility, Wilkinson had, to this point, garnered some respect among the state's leaders. But with his bizarre behavior Wednesday, some are beginning to wonder why he veered from the tea party's issue of controlling government spending and keeping taxes low, to becoming a political mole for the McCollum campaign.
Wilkinson said Friday, "I made a mistake. I got a little too emotionally involved. If I had to do it over again, I would not have stayed right there and been so vocal."
While stating that tea parties do not endorse political candidates, Wilkinson said his support of McCollum -- with whom he appeared in Tallahassee when the attorney general filed his campaign papers earlier this year -- was personal.
Wilkinson's antics and tactics have raised concern among other tea party activists.
"He's under a lot of fire right now by other tea party members, as the event that he disrupted was being put on by another tea party member, Marianne Moran. Many are calling on him to resign from the movement. I'd be very surprised if he does, though," said Tom Tillison, a leader of the Orlando Tea Party.
"Any line that existed between the tea party movement and the Republican Party of Florida is becoming more and more blurred by the minute," Tillison added.
Robin Stublen, who served as a tea party coordinator with Wilkinson before resigning, called Wilkinson's performance "disgraceful."
Stublen said from his home in Punta Gorda, "People are outraged. They've asked for him to resign and to publicly come out and say who's funding him.
"The Republican Party can corrupt this movement, and it's every member's responsibility to call it out when they see it," Stublen said.
Frederic O'Neal, chairman of the Florida TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party, said, "Everett is totally out of control. In our situation, for example, Everett violates Section 103.081 almost daily by sending out release after release in which he calls himself the 'chairman of the Florida Tea Party' in direct violation of the statute.
Wilkinson has sued O'Neal's TEA Party, alleging illegal appropriation of the tea name.
O'Neal added, "The only explanation for his behavior that I can think of is that Everett thinks he has a permanent 'get out of jail free' card for whatever he does because he's working for the attorney general."