‘Big Three' Pounce on ‘Fangate’: ‘An Awkward Moment That’s Blowing Up Online’

On Thursday morning, all three network morning shows hyped Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott’s refusal to appear on stage for a scheduled debate with his Democratic opponent, former Governor Charlie Crist, due to the appearance of an unapproved fan. Despite the “big three” enthusiastically covering the Republican governor’s “Fangate” episode, the networks have repeatedly refused to cover political controversies from Democrats running for office this year.  

The Florida Republican eventually came on stage and the debate began as scheduled, but that didn’t stop the “big three” (ABC, CBS, and NBC) from jumping on the incident with NBC’s Matt Lauer playing it up as “an awkward moment that’s blowing up online today.”

CBS This Morning provided the most extensive "Fangate" coverage, a full 2-minute report from Michelle Miller. Co-host Norah O’Donnell introduced the segment by arguing that the story “could actually make a difference in this year's very close race.”  

Miller began her report by describing how Governor Scott was “flummoxed over an electric fan and as you see, in the end Governor Scott’s explanation didn't quite cut it.”  She continued by playing a lengthy clip from the Florida gubernatorial debate before turning to Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose once again to discuss the controversy further.

O’Donnell argued that “when I looked at this video last night, I figured this is exactly why voters are so fed up with politics.” Charlie Rose complained that Scott was “worrying about a fan rather than talking about issues.”

On NBC’s Today, co-host Matt Lauer opened the show by declaring “'Fangate'…Florida's Governor refuses to take the stage at a debate because of the electric fan under his opponent’s podium. An awkward moment that’s blowing up online today.”  

Later in the broadcast, NBC’s Tamron Hall continued to discuss the political fight and joked that these are “politicians willing to talk about the big issues”:  

Well some are calling it "Fangate." Yes, a Florida debate between Democrat Charlie Christ and Governor Rick Scott got off to a windy start last night when only Crist walked out on stage. So Scott stayed away, upset over an electric fan that Charlie Crist insists on using to keep himself cool. Scott finally joined in and after one of the most bizarre debate moments in a long time, the fan won and stayed.

Good Morning America’s Amy Robach provided a news brief on “Fangate” and mockingly asked “how old are they?” after pushing the controversial debate dustup:

Well a bizarre debate in Florida's governor race. Charlie Crist and Rick Scott were supposed to debate each other but only Crist showed up on stage. Governor Scott refusing to come out. Why? He was upset that Crist had a special prop with him behind the podium…Can anyone say “Fangate?” Crist had his fan down by his legs keep him cool. After a seven minute delay, we should say that Governor Scott finally walked out, but the fan stayed.

While all three networks provided significant coverage of Republican Rick Scott’s “Fangate” dispute, the “big three” have repeatedly ignored controversies involving Democrats throughout the 2014 election cycle.

Following Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’ repeated refusal to tell voters who she voted for in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, all three networks ignored the story even though she doubled-down in her refusal to say who she voted for during a Senate debate with incumbent Republican Senator Mitch McConnell on Monday night. 

After Texas Democrat Wendy Davis ran a controversial ad depicting her disabled Republican opponent Greg Abbott as a hypocrite for supposedly not caring about the disabled, NBC’s Today was the only network news show to cover that misstep, providing a single story on Tuesday, October 14.

When Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) awkwardly stumbled over a question on the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis the “big three” remained silent, but CBS This Morning did find time to highlight the selfie Pryor took with President Bill Clinton.

A fair and unbiased media would have covered these recent Democratic campaign errors with the same enthusiasm that they gave to Republican Rick Scott and “Fangate." Unsurprisingly, ABC, CBS, and NBC have repeatedly chosen to bury Democratic campaign controversies while eagerly jumping when a Republican candidate makes a mistake on the campaign trail.

See relevant transcripts below.

CBS This Morning

October 16, 2014

NORAH O’DONNELL: The fight for the governor’s office in Florida took a bizarre turn at a debate last night. Governor Rick Scott refused to come out on time to face his Democratic challenger, and this morning the dispute is getting a lot of attention around the country. I was looking at this video myself last night. Michelle Miller is here with a story that could actually make a difference in this year's very close race. Michelle good morning.

MICHELLE MILLER: You bet it could. Well, good morning. The hour long debate was delayed for more than six minutes while the moderators and the crowd wondered whether Florida Governor Scott would show up at all. He was flummoxed over an electric fan and as you see, in the end Governor Scott’s explanation didn't quite cut it. 

ELIOT RODRIGUEZ: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a peculiar situation right now. 

MILLER: Florida’s second gubernatorial debate started Wednesday night with an empty stage. 

UNKNOWN: We have Governor Charlie Crist, our incumbent government and the incumbent Republican candidate for governor is also in the building. Governor Rick Scott.  

MILLER: But Governor Rick Scott was a no-show.

RODRIGUEZ: Governor Crist has asked to have a small fan place underneath his podium. The rules of the debate that I was shown by the Scott campaign say that there should be no fan. Somehow there is a fan there, and for that reason, ladies and gentleman I am being told that Governor Scott will not join us for this debate. 

MILLER: So Democrat Charlie Christ, a former Florida governor himself, jumped at the chance to have the spotlight alone.

UNKNOWN PERSON: It says that no electronics can be used – 

CHARLIE CRIST: Are we really going to debate about a fan or are we going to talk about education, and the environment, and the future of our state. I mean really – 

MILLER: The moderators were bewildered.

RODRIGUEZ: This a platform for one candidate. We're hoping that Governor Scott will join us on the stage. 

MILLER: Moments later Scott appeared and the two candidates got down to business. In the end, Crist kept the fan. 

CRIST: Why not, you know? Is there anything wrong with being comfortable? I don’t think there is.  

RODRIGUEZ: And Governor Scott, why the delay in coming out over a fan?  

RICK SCOTT: We feared he wasn't going to show up. He said he wasn't going to come to the debate.  

MILLER: Well, the latest Tampa Bay Times poll shows these two men are in a dead heat, tied at 40%. Absentee voting has already begun and early in-person voting starts on Monday. Norah?

O’DONNELL: Michelle thanks. Charlie, when I looked at this video last night, I figured this is exactly why voters are so fed up with politics.

CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly right. Worrying about a fan rather than talking about issues.

O’DONNELL: Talking about real issues. Most expensive gubernatorial race in the country. We’ll see what happens there.

 

ABC’s Good Morning America

October 16, 2014

AMY ROBACH: Well a bizarre debate in Florida's governor race. Charlie Crist and Rick Scott were supposed to debate each other but only Crist showed up on stage. Governor Scott refusing to come out. Why? He was upset that Crist had a special prop with him behind the podium. 

ELIOT RODRIGUEZ: The rules of the debate that I was shown by the Scott campaign say that there should be no fan. Somehow there is a fan there, and for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, I am being told that Governor Scott will not join us for this debate. Ladies and gentlemen – 

ROBACH: Can anyone say “Fangate?” Crist had his fan down by his legs keep him cool. After a seven minute delay, we should say that Governor Scott finally walked out, but the fan stayed put. How old are they?  

 

NBC’s Today
October 16, 2014

MATT LAUER: And “Fangate.” 

ELIOT RODRIGUEZ: We have an extremely peculiar situation right now. 

LAUER: Florida's Governor refuses to take the stage at a debate because of the electric fan under his opponent’s podium. An awkward moment that’s blowing up online today.

--

TAMRON HALL: Well some are calling it Fangate. Yes, a Florida debate between Democrat Charlie Christ and Governor Rick Scott got off to a windy start last night when only Crist walked out on stage. So Scott stayed away, upset over an electric fan that Charlie Crist insists on using to keep himself cool. Scott finally joined in and after one of the most bizarre debate moments in a long time, the fan won and stayed.  It is now 7:19. We normally complain about how cold it is and we battle to have heat under our desk. And I have this little heater in fact right here. Charlie Crist would run from this.

NATALIE MORALES: Calling it. Fangate.

MATT LAUER: That’s what I love, politicians willing to talk about the big issues.

HALL: The big issues yes. It’s amazing. It did happen.

LAUER: Tamron, thank you very much. 

Campaigns & Elections 2014 Governors ABC Good Morning America CBS CBS This Morning NBC Today Governor Rick Scott Charlie Crist Michelle Miller Matt Lauer Charlie Rose Norah O'Donnell Amy Robach Tamron Hall

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