TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans have repeatedly expressed indignation about critical comments made last week by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. And judging by the governor’s inbox, the indignation is playing well.
Residents from various parts of the state have sent messages through the state’s Sunburst email system expressing support for Scott as he called for an apology from Jackson, who appeared with protesters maintaining a base camp at the Capitol. Among other things, the protesters have called for a special legislative session on the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law and for changes in the juvenile-justice system.
“Thank you for standing up against Jesse Jackson,” wrote St. Petersburg resident Andrew Lusher on Wednesday. “One isolated incident should not instigate knee-jerk type sweeping changes. Bravo, Sir.”
The email is typical of what dominated Scott’s inbox last week.
“As a Florida taxpayer … thank you for your response to this irresponsible (social activist) and please continue to represent the voice of reason for those that can see through the cloud of misinformation spewed by tilted media and these social activists,” wrote Scott DeBlois of Orange County.
The venting in the emails is a dramatic change from a little more than a month ago, when Scott was under fire on separate issues tied to the Second Amendment. As an example, Scott was lambasted by many Floridians via Sunburst for suspending Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch after his arrest in June by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Investigators said the sheriff destroyed documents tied to the arrest of a man in March charged with illegally carrying a concealed firearm.
A group of protesters, led by the Dream Defenders, has been on the first floor of the Capitol, outside Scott’s office, since July 16. The protest began after the July 13 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of teen Trayvon Martin in Seminole County.
At first, email tilted toward the protesters, mostly from people angered over the jury decision in favor of Zimmerman. But after Scott rejected a call for a special session concerning the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, support for his stance started to roll in. Jackson’s appearance only kicked up the public comments.
For every Pat Jackson of Broward County who wrote that “politicians that support the Stand Your Ground law are the ones that should apologize,” there are dozens more like Okaloosa County resident Frank Martin chiming in that, “I take much offense to the remarks of [Jesse] Jackson.”
Jackson appeared with the Dream Defenders last week and repeated a line he has used before — comparing the current situation with Selma, Ala., which was a focal point of the civil-rights movement in the 1960s.
Jackson also suggested that Scott, who has maintained support for Stand Your Ground, could change his mind, noting that former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, an infamous segregationist, eventually renounced his segregationist views.
Scott called for an apology for what he deemed as insulting and inflammatory comments against Florida. Jackson, while giving an interview on South Florida radio station WIOD, responded that the request was “absurd.”
Scott on Thursday announced he had rejected a private meeting with Jackson.
“Without an official, public apology from Jesse Jackson to the people of Florida, any conversation would only reward him for making — and then doubling down — on his irresponsible insults,” Scott said in a release.
Based on the email traffic, the stance against Jackson — as well as rejecting the call for a special session — has been a winner, which could explain why others in the GOP have been scrambling to jump on the Jackson-needs-to-apologize-to-Florida bandwagon.
Emailers also have said the governor has been too easy on protesters in allowing them to spend the night in the Capitol.
“It is time to call in the exterminators,” wrote Pasco County resident Mully Ecklish. “For health reasons … set up an appointment to have the area sprayed. They will be escorted out, or jailed. Their choice.”
“You stay strong and know that there are millions out here standing with you and praying for you and all of those who are in your State. Hang tough,” added Rick Snowden of Catskill, N.Y.