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Yes, Charlie Crist Did Break Debate Rules, Organizers Say

October 15, 2014 - 6:00pm

Charlie Crist broke the agreed-upon rules during Wednesday night's statewide debate, organizers said on Thursday.

The statewide debate between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist threw Florida -- and the nation -- into a frenzy over a whirring fan. But on Thursday, debate organizers quickly issued a statement contending Crist did indeed break the rules by bringing in a fan at the last minute to keep himself cool in a room already set at 67 degrees.

The release from joint debate organizers Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida laid out the groundwork for the rules, which included the format, logistics and other detailed information relating to the debate.

(Read the entire release in the attachment at the end of this story.)

One of the provisions? No electronic devices -- including fans.

Scotts campaign agreed and signed the debate rules.

Crists team signed the letter, too -- but added a note at the bottom of the rules: *with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary.

According to the release, Dean Ridings, FPA president, told Crists team the room would be maintained at a comfortable temperature. If there was a problem, the partners would deal with it appropriately.

An hour before the debate began, the temperature on stage was 67 degrees. Ridings deemed this a comfortable temperature, and told the Crist campaign the fan was a no-go.

Around 20 minutes later, the release alleges, somebody from the Crist campaign put a fan under his podium.

The debate organizers once again said the fan was a no-no.

It appears the Crist campaigns apparent violation of the debate rules threw both the organizers and the Scott campaign into chaos.

Scott apparently never said he wouldn't join the debate, despite debate moderators insinuating the governor refused to join Crist on stage based on the fans presence.

Rather, the Scott campaign was waiting on resolution of the rules issue before Scott took the stage, read the FPA release.

Organizers said they didnt anticipate any rule-breaking -- and allowing Crist to come on stage before the issue was resolved was, in retrospect, a mistake.

The debate partners should have been better prepared for this possibility, the release said.

Crists campaign team wholeheartedly disagreed with the FPAs assertion that their team violated debate rules. Crist adviser Kevin Cate said the organizers were wrong and maintained the rules had been settled two days before the debate.

Debate organizers spinning, when facts are on TV and in writing, is both pathetic and transparent, he said.

In fact, after release of the debate committee's press statement, Twitter was alight with comments about the revelation, mostly from Republicans reiterating that the Crist camp broke the rules.

Conservative lobbyist and "think tanker" Christian Cara called Crist "a liar and a cheater." He said, "You can't just scribble your own rules onto a contract like that and expect others to abide by it. Is this how Crist will govern?"

Business analyst Christopher H. Holte tried to take a legal view: "Adding caveat to contract after (it's) been signed by other parties invalidates contract unless parties agree."

In a telephone interview, SaintPetersblog's Peter Schorsch told Sunshine State News he thinks "the organizers did a piss-poor job from the outset. ... Everybody knows Charlie Crist doesn't agree to do anything without his fan, why would he agree to a debate without it?"

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen via email at or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.Nancy Smith contributed to this story.

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