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Scott: Hollingsworth will 'continue to do a great job'

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday stood by his chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, who has acknowledged that for years he claimed a college degree before he obtained it.

In his first impromptu remarks on the matter since the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau broke the Hollingsworth story last Friday, Scott spoke positively about his senior advisor.

"I'm just glad that Adam has a college degree. I'm proud of him for doing that," Scott told reporters at the end of a Cabinet meeting. "He's admitted he made a mistake. He's doing a great job. He's a good friend."

In response to a follow-up question by a Capitol reporter who suggested that there's a "lot of talk" that Hollingsworth will have to go, Scott said: "Again, I'm glad he has a college degree. He's doing a great job, he's a good friend and he's going to continue to do a great job."

Hollingsworth has acknowledged that in the mid-1990s, he told a former employer, CSX Corp., that he had a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama when he did not. He earned his degree at Tuscaloosa in 2009. On Friday, in a statement to the Times/Herald, he apologized for what he called a "misrepresentation" and a "failure in judgment."

After serving as chief of staff to Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, Hollingsworth became a paid advisor on Scott's 2010 campaign and played a key role in his transition. He replaced Steve MacNamara as chief of staff in July 2012 and earns $151,000 a year.

In an editorial on Tuesday, the Pensacola News Journal called on Scott to fire Hollingsworth if he does not resign. In unusually strong language, the newspaper compared Hollingsworth to "fraudulent, bureaucratic hacks" and said: "It’s a betrayal of Scott’s confidence to have hidden facts that now call into question Hollingsworth’s character, competence and his potentially damaging influence upon this administration."

The day Scott took office, on Jan. 4, 2011, he signed an executive order in which he said his duties included "setting the highest ethical standards for state government." The policy requires senior staff members to abide by a strict code of ethics that includes avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

-- Steve Bousquet