Gov. Scott dines with Trump as others keep distant

Rick Scott and Donald Trump

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Some Florida Republicans are condemning President Donald Trump’s reaction to events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Others are tiptoeing around the issue, or remaining silent.

Florida’s governor, meanwhile, went on a lunch date with him Thursday.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott dined with Trump at his New Jersey golf club, even as the president continues to draw criticism for saying that protesters and counter-protesters share blame for violence at a white nationalist rally that turned deadly. Trump also said that the group of white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis included some “very fine people.” Trump’s comments were the last straw for executives on a presidential business council, who decided to disband.

And Trump added to the debate Thursday, by criticizing people who want to remove Confederate monuments.

But a spokesman for Scott, John Tupps, said the subject of Charlottesville and Confederate monuments never came up during their lunch, which was scheduled before the violence in Virginia.

“Governor Scott was solely there to promote Florida,” said Tupps said, adding that “a wide-range” of subjects were discussed. “Additionally, they discussed the terror attack in Barcelona and the efforts President Trump is taking to keep America safe.”

Scott’s condemnation of white nationalists Wednesday did not include criticism of Trump, though he did say the president and other elected officials need to focus on unity and love. Asked what he thought of Trump’s comments, Scott told a reporter: “You can ask President Trump what he said.”

Scott has been one of Trump’s biggest supporters in Florida, and now several Democrats are bashing him for his presidential lunch.

“Instead of condemning President Trump’s heinous remarks, Rick Scott did what he always does: put his own political ambitions and self-interest ahead of what’s right for Florida,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein said in a press release. “Instead of sitting down to eat with President Trump, Scott should have stood up to him.”

Scott, who is forced to leave office because of term limits, is considering a run next year for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Other Florida Republican reaction to Trump has been mixed. Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted “Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame.”

That’s stronger than the response of Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, who when asked Tuesday night about Trump’s comments on Charlottesville, said “I can only control what I say.”

The Republican Party of Florida has been silent on Trump’s comments, and did not immediately answer an email and phone message Thursday seeking its response.

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