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Gov. Rick Scott kicks journalists out of House chamber; practices for State of the State in private



UPDATE: Here are more details on the State of the State rehearsal dustup.

The governor had reserved the House Chambers for a block of time Monday afternoon to practice his State of the State speech. The governor refused to start practicing his address while members of the media were watching and said he would rather leave instead.

Members of his staff communicated this to the House sergeant-at-arms. In an attempt to accommodate the governor, House staffers they told the members of the media in the gallery they had to leave.

So although the governor himself did not ask the journalists to leave, the person who did thought he was carrying out the governor's wishes. Since then, Speaker Will Weatherford's staff has apologized.

"We regret that the press was asked to leave," said Kathy Mears, the House Speaker's chief of staff. "We believe this is a public building and we apologize for any inconvenience or confusion about that." 

ORIGINAL POST: Gov. Rick Scott didn't want a photographer and reporter from the Times/Herald watching him rehearse for Tuesday's State of the State Address this afternoon.

He had both journalists kicked out of the House Press Gallery even though the two were behind a glass partition and could not hear what the governor or his staff were saying inside the House Chambers. No other members of the media were in the gallery at the time.

Photographer Scott Keeler snapped several pictures of Scott checking out the layout of the room and playfully switching roles with his own staff photographer before he was asked to leave. Keeler had put his camera down and was in the process of editing the pictures when unidentified staff members said the governor wanted him to go.

Keeler took similar pictures of Scott with no issues in 2012 and 2013 (the picture below is him preparing the day before the 2012 speech). Today, staffers said Scott's rehearsal constituted a private event in the House Chambers that was closed to media. Scottpractice12

These employees, including at least one member from the House Sergeant-at-Arms staff, said the request to have Keeler and the reporter (yes, yours truly) leave came from the governor himself, who watched the events unfold from below.

Scott was accompanied by members of his re-election staff, including campaign manager Melissa Sellers, and his state-paid staff, including spokeswoman Jackie Schutz.