CBS, NBC Continue Hyping ‘Fangate’, Yet Ignore Apology from Debate Organizers

CBS and NBC continued on Thursday night to harp on the so-called refusal of Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott to initially debate his opponent, Democrat and former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, on Wednesday because of Crist’s usage of a fan that broke the rules of the debate.

After each of the “big three” (ABC, CBS, and NBC) mentioned it on their morning newscasts, the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News aired new segments and included NBC’s Brian Williams stating that what transpired on Wednesday night “may say more about the broken state of our politics these days than we'd like to admit.” [MP3 audio here; Video below]

All the while, neither network mentioned that Scott said Thursday that he was there for the debate and told by the debate organizers to not come out as Crist was supposedly not there because the debate rules didn’t allow him to have a fan.

Appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room on Thursday, Scott told host Wolf Blitzer that: “I was sitting in the back. I was told he wasn't going to show up and so I was sitting back there waiting for them to tell us to come out and they didn't tell us to come out and then he went out there.”

When asked by Blitzer who told him to not go out on-stage, the Republican incumbent said that it was “the organizers” of the debate as they informed him that Crist “wasn't showing up. He was balking without his fan, so I didn't even know he was going to have a fan.”

In addition, on the Fox News Channel’s Special Report on Thursday, host Bret Baier reported that “[d]ebate officials insist Scott never refused to participate, and was awaiting clarification on the rules when Crist took the stage without him.” 

Baier also mentioned that the organizers of the debate have apologized for what happened, saying that they “did not anticipate or plan for the possibility that a candidate would not honor the debate rules.”

Instead, on the CBS Evening News, substitute anchor Jim Axelrod dubbed it “an issue Lincoln and Douglas never debated” and that things on Wednesday “really hit the fan.” CBS News national correspondent Wyatt Andrews said the series of events “looked like bad reality television.”

Andrews mentioned that the Florida Republican Party on Thursday “were hoping to embarrass Crist, releasing photos of what they called Crist's obsession with fans, sometimes two fans as he fends off the Florida heat” while Democrats maintained “that, under pressure last night, it was the Governor who melted down."

Over on NBC Nightly News, Williams made the remark about the “broken state of our politics” but also that the debate essentially “dissolved in a fight over” the fan’s usage.

NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell suggested that Crist “doesn't go anywhere without his fan” because “[p]erhaps he never got over this image, Richard Nixon sweating profusely in his first debate with John F. Kennedy in 1960.”

The relevant portions of the transcript that aired on the CBS Evening News on October 16 are transcribed below.

CBS Evening News
October 16, 2014
6:30 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Peculiar Debate]

JIM AXELROD: And from Wyatt Andrews, an issue Lincoln and Douglas never debated. 

ELLIOT RODRIGUEZ: Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now.

(....)

6:44 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Heated Debate]

AXELROD: A cooling device sets off a heated debate between two candidates.

(....)

6:47 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Florida Governor’s Race]

AXELROD: One of the more hotly contested races in campaign 2014 is for Governor of Florida. Last night, Wyatt Andrews tells us it really hit the fan. 

FLORIDA GOVERNOR’S DEBATE INTRO VOICE: Governor of Florida.

WYATT ANDREWS: For more than six minutes last night, Florida's debate for governor looked like bad reality television. 

RODRIGUEZ: We have an extremely peculiar situation right now.

ANDREWS: The challenger, Democrat Charlie Crist, came on stage all alone as the incumbent governor, Republican Rick Scott, staged a no-show protest over this: A fan Christ installed to stay cool. To the Scott campaign, the fan was not cool, a violation of the rules, as moderator Elliot Rodriguez explained. 

RODRIGUEZ: Somehow, there is fan there, and for that reason, I’m being told, ladies and gentlemen, I am being told that Governor Scott will not join us for this debate. 

ANDREWS: Governor Scott quickly ended his hold-out, but both men were asked to air this out. Crist shrugged it off as no big deal. 

FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST (D): Is there anything wrong with being comfortable? 

ANDREWS: But then the governor claimed that he had been late because of Crist. 

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT (R): I waited to see – till we figured out if he was going to show up. He said he wasn't going to come to the – he said he wasn’t going to come to the debate. So why not come out until he’s ready?

[ON-SCREEN NEWSPAPER HEADLINES: Tampa Bay Times: “After Fan Delay, A Sharp Debate,” St. Lucie News Tribune: “Fanning the Flames: Debate Bizarre, Heated,” South Florida Sun Sentinel: “‘Fangate’ Upsets Second Debate,” Florida Today: “Crist, Scott Fan Flames,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “In Shadow of a ‘Fan’”]

ANDREWS: Florida's newspapers called it Fangate, but behind everything here is overheated politics. Republicans were hoping to embarrass Crist, releasing photos of what they called Crist's obsession with fans, sometimes two fans as he fends off the Florida heat. Governor Scott used that to suggest Crist can’t take the heat. 

SCOTT: I think he's just – he was sweaty and he needed a fan. I’m surprised he didn't ask for dry ice. 

ANDREWS: But Democrats believe that, under pressure last night, it was the Governor who melted down. To partisans on both sides, Jim, delaying a debate over a fan, and doing that on TV is among the most awkward political moments of the year. 

AXELROD: Wyatt Andrews with the heat of the campaign. Thank you. 

The complete transcript of the segment from October 16's NBC Nightly News can be found below.

NBC Nightly News
October 16, 2014
7:13 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Feeling the Heat]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Now to a bizarre scene that played out live on television last night and this may say more about the broken state of our politics these days than we'd like to admit. The Governor of Florida and his challenger, a former Governor, set to debate right before the evening dissolved in a fight over a small electric fan. We get the story tonight from NBC's Andrea Mitchell. 

ANDREA MITCHELL: It has to be the first time a political fan took place center stage at a debate. 

ELLIOTT RODRIGUEZ: The two candidates who are invited to take part in this debate, right now, are not stepping up on the stage. Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now. We have been told that Governor Scott will not be participating in this debate. 

MITCHELL: His objection, his opponent, Charlie Crist had brought along an electric fan. It turns out that Charlie Crist, himself a former governor, doesn't go anywhere without his fan. Perhaps he never got over this image, Richard Nixon sweating profusely in his first debate with John F. Kennedy in 1960. The fan even has its own Twitter account. 

FORMER GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST: Are we really going to have a debate about a fan?

MITCHELL: Governor Scott finally caved in.

RODRIGUEZ: That has to be the most unique beginning to any debate. 

MITCHELL: Who won? perhaps the fan’s Twitter account. It picked up a thousand followers. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington. 

WILLIAMS: Unbelievable.

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