#Fangate: Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott Refuses to Debate Because Opponent Brings Fan Onstage

Democratic challenger for the Florida governorship Charlie Crist stands alone, save for his fan. Andrew Innerarity/Reuters

A dispute over a fan waylaid a debate about issues in Florida Wednesday evening, when Gov. Rick Scott refused to join former Gov. Charlie Crist onstage because his challenger was using a portable fan.

For about seven minutes, Crist was shown on live TV standing alone onstage, his fan humming quietly, the moderators befuddled and the crowd growing increasingly restive.

Elliot Rodriguez, a news anchor at CBS-4 TV in Miami and the debate's moderator, laid out the situation for viewers at the start of the broadcast, saying that Gov. Crist asked to have a fan placed under the podium. But Gov. Scott's people protested, saying it was against the rules to bring "electronic devices" onto the stage.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now," quipped Rodriguez. "The rules of the debate that I was shown by the Scott campaign say there should be no fan. Somehow there is a fan there."

Crist used the incident as an opportunity to criticize Scott: "Are we really going to debate about a fan?" he asked, "or are we going to talk about education, and the environment, and the future of our state?"

Scott eventually relented and joined Crist onstage.

The incident was quickly co-opted by social media users and given the hashtag #fangate.

An hourly timeline of #fangate on Twitter. Brandwatch

Rodriguez later tweeted:

My debate role was to ask questions and be fair, not to check for portable fans. #fangate #FLGovDebate

— Eliott Rodriguez (@ERodCBS4) October 16, 2014

Despite the fact that Crist was onstage and ready to debate for several minutes before Scott joined him, Scott blamed the delay on Crist: "I waited until we figured out if [Crist] was going to show up," he said.

Crist and his portable fans go way back. The former governor "keeps a portable fan handy whenever he knows he's going to be on camera," The Miami Herald reports. He brought one with him to the first gubernatorial debate in 2006; he kept one under his podium at the Capitol "for all four years he was governor"; he "requested one when he spoke to the Associated Press' annual seminar for Florida reporters and editors in January"; and he "asked for one when he met with the editorial boards of the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald," the Herald reports.

Crist, who used to be a Republican, became an Independent in 2010 after it became clear he would lose the Republican primary election for a Senate seat in Florida to Marco Rubio. In 2012, he joined the Democrats. Crist initially led Scott, but a CNN poll from mid-October has the two tied for the governor's race with 44 percent each.

Crist and Scott continued to trade barbs about the debate on Thursday through their Twitter accounts.

No need to fear any of those things! RT @ScottFreeFLA: #fearthefan #fangate pic.twitter.com/tqKrYOW0Ow

— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) October 16, 2014

#Fangate joins other recent "gate" hashtags that describe viral controversies: #Bendgate, #Gapgate, and so on.