The week after a gunman killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, CNN hosted a tense, and at times combative, town hall meeting in Sunrise, Florida about gun violence. In attendance were parents of victims, survivors of the massacre and three of Florida’s elected officials. Conspicuously absent, however, was the state’s governor. This led many to ask: Where is Rick Scott?
The precise location of Scott, who strongly opposes gun control, is unknown. According to his public schedule and comments from his office, though, it seems as if he was on the other side of the state, in Tallahassee, when the town hall kicked off at 9:00 p.m. local time.
Earlier in the day, a spokesperson for the governor said that he couldn’t attend the town hall because he’d be meeting with state lawmakers in Tallahassee at the time.
“With only three weeks left of our annual legislative session, Governor Rick Scott will be in Tallahassee meeting with state leaders to work on ways to keep Florida students safe, including school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness,” the spokesperson told VICE.
This is partially corroborated by the public schedule posted by Scott’s office, which indeed said that he’d be in back-to-back meetings with lawmakers in Tallahassee for most of the day.
However, that schedule doesn’t list any events for 9:00pm, when the town hall took place. The last event listed is a meeting at 7:30pm with state senators Rene Garcia and Perry Thurston, Jr., and although it’s unclear how long that meeting was slated to take place, every other meeting on that schedule with lawmakers was only 15 minutes long. It’s reasonable to conclude that this meeting ended at 7:45pm — an hour and fifteen minutes before CNN’s town hall kicked off.
That said, Tallahassee is more than a six-hour drive from Sunrise. Even by flight between the two cities takes around an hour and a half. So, if Scott’s schedule is accurate, it would have been practically impossible for him to be at the town hall forum by the time the first half of its forum — the one that featured elected officials taking questions from the audience — kicked off.
It’s worth noting that although Scott didn’t attend the forum in Sunrise, he did hold a meeting with survivors of the shooting at 5:00pm Wednesday, according to his public schedule and Twitter account.
Still, this didn’t mollify survivors of the massacre and other proponents of stronger gun laws, many of whom depicted Scott as a coward for failing to attend the public forum.
“Upset to hear our governor Rick Scott wont be attending the town hall meeting on Wednesday,” Sarah Chadwick, a survivor of the shooting, tweeted. “To be fair, he does have an A+ rating from the NRA, and i think he’s scared of my peers and i.”
Although Scott was not at the forum, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was. The only elected official in attendance who broadly opposes gun control, Rubio was booed by the crowd several times during his answers, in which he pointedly refused to support a ban on assault weapons. One parent whose child was killed in the Parkland shooting received a standing ovation when he said that Rubio’s reaction to the shooting has been “pathetically weak.”
Despite not attending the town hall, Scott was taken to task over his stance on gun rights on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, student protesters swarmed his office, chanting “shame on you” and “face us now.” Scott was not in his office at the time, according to The Hill.