Sounds like Rick Scott debate adviser Brett O’Donnell threatened moderators

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In case you missed it, Sun Sentinel editorial page editor Rosemary Goudreau, who served as one of the moderators during last Wednesday’s debate between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, offers her account of what transpired during “Fangate.”

The start of the second debate was delayed by about five minutes as confused panelists pointed out that neither candidate was on stage. At that moment, Crist walked out and the audience was told Scott was refusing to join him because Crist had a small fan inside his lectern. The panelists spent a few minutes deciding what to do, with Crist insisting the debate go on without Scott.

Goudreau’s account of what went down behind the scenes portrays Brett O’Donnell, the former chief strategist to Michelle Bachmann who had been brought in to prep Scott for the debate, as downright manic.

The moment we sat down, an agitated Scott campaign adviser approached us. He showed us a copy of the agreed-upon debate terms, which said no electronics, including fans, could be used. He asked repeatedly:

“Are you going to enforce the rules?”

“Are you going to enforce the rules?”

“Are you going to enforce the rules?”

After the debate started without either candidate on stage, that’s when things got really interesting, Goudreau writes.

Now we were live. Eliott’s voice filled the hall and television sets. “And as you can see, the two candidates 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.”

Then out walked Charlie Crist. Eliott called Gov. Scott’s name, too, then added that he’d been told the governor would not be participating in the debate because of the fan.

By this point, O’Donnell was livid, so much so that it would appear that he threatened to behead Goudreau and the other moderators.

I kept watching the wings for signs of the governor, but the only person I saw was the campaign adviser, who was looking at me frantically and running his finger across his neck. I took it as a sign that Scott wasn’t coming. In retrospect, I think he wanted us to kill the show.

Goudreau is being generous. After his candidate’s performance on Wednesday, I’m pretty sure O’Donnell wanted to lop off the heads of the moderators.


Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.