It’s inevitable that prominent figures in public life, most notably politicians, are occasionally going to be confronted by critics. There are, however, different ways to handle hecklers.
Last week, for example, in a north Florida coffee shop, Gov. Rick Scott (R) ran into a local woman named Cara Jennings, who had some concerns about the Republican governor’s health care agenda. “You cut Medicaid so I couldn’t get Obamacare. You’re an a**hole,” Jennings yelled. “You don’t care about working people. You should be ashamed to show your face around here.”
When Scott walked away, Jennings kept going. “You stripped women of access to public health care,” the Florida woman added. “Shame on you, Rick Scott. We depend on those services. Rich people like you don’t know what to do when poor people like us need health services – you cut them.”
MSNBC’s Khorri Atkinson reported on the unexpected response from the governor’s political operation: Team Scott launched an attack ad targeting the critic.
Scott’s super PAC, Let’s Get to Work, made the governor’s statement into an attack ad calling Jennings “a terribly rude woman,” a “latte liberal” and someone who “clearly has a problem.”The PAC defended Scott’s record on job creation, which Jennings called into question. “Almost everybody [has a great job],” the ad says. “Except those who are sitting around coffee shops, demanding public assistance, surfing the internet and cursing at customers who come in.”The ad also said Jennings is a “former government official” who “refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance” and “calls herself an anarchist.”
For the record, I know practically nothing about Cara Jennings, her career, her ideology, or her personality.
But in a story like this, I’m not sure it matters. Since when do political operations tied to elected officials go after regular, private citizens? Is there any precedent at all for a sitting governor’s PAC launching an attack ad against a constituent?
For that matter, just as an issue of tactical wisdom, it’s hard to see the benefit of playing hardball like this. Yes, when the governor faced coffee-shop heckling last week, it generated some attention. But it was a one-day story on its way out – right up until Rick Scott’s PAC decided to shine a light on the incident all over again.