LAKE MARY — Florida Gov. Rick Scott denounced racism Monday in the wake of the white nationalist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia, but stopped short of joining other prominent Republicans in criticizing President Donald Trump’s response to the violence.
“I’m not going to parse the president’s words, but here’s what I’ll say: It’s evil. It’s horrible. I don’t believe in racism, I don’t believe in bigotry,” Scott said. “I believe that the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, they don’t belong in our society.”
Scott took questions about Charlottesville after a speech at the Verizon facility on Heathrow Park Lane, during which he announced plans to pursue an amendment to the state Constitution that would require a legislative supermajority for any future tax or fee increases.
Tensions erupted Saturday during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville when a car plowed into counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, whose father lives in Brevard County. Three people died amid the day’s chaos, and dozens were hurt.
Trump in his remarks Saturday did not specifically denounce far-right hate groups, instead condemning “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” The wording was cheered by white nationalists online and drew criticism from politicians of both major parties.
Though he did not criticize the president, Scott was emphatic in denouncing white supremacist ideologies.
“It’s evil. I don’t believe in it,” he said. “It’s disgusting that this would ever go on in our society.”
A few hours after Scott's remarks, Trump named and condemned "repugnant" hate groups and declared that "racism is evil" in a far more forceful statement than he'd made earlier after deadly, race-fueled weekend clashes.
State House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a potential 2018 candidate for governor, attended Scott’s event and echoed his remarks.
“Wherever evil presents itself — I don’t care if it’s neo-Nazism, I don’t care if it’s white supremacy, if it’s any of the incidents that we saw, they need to be stamped out and they have no business being in a free, open, democratic society,” said Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes.
Scott’s appearance at the Verizon facility came as the company is embarking on a $2 million renovation that will add 100 jobs, said Dan Gerola, senior vice president of finance operations. Scott cut the ribbon on the facility in 2014, and its workforce has since grown from 750 to more than 1,200, Gerola said.
Scott credited job growth in the state to Republicans’ efforts to cut taxes and regulations, progress he said would be protected if Florida voters approve the Constitutional amendment he proposed.
“I want to make sure this gets on the ballot so you never see our taxes go up again without people taking the time to make sure it’s something well-thought-out,” Scott said.
He said he’s still exploring options to get the issue onto the ballot, either through the Legislature or the Constitutional Revision Commission. To become a part of the Constitution, the measure would have to be approved by 60 percent of Florida voters.
Corcoran billed the amendment as a protection both for businesses and “families that are out there trying to make ends meet.”
“You can’t just go willy nilly and raise those people’s taxes and think it’s not going to have a dramatic effect on them,” he said. “So making it that much more difficult for people to raise taxes or raise fees in the future is a great protection for our state.”