Senate President Don Gaetz says he was just trying to smooth things over with a constituent after a particularly testy committee meeting. But Kris Anne Hall, a "constitutional consultant" who led a contingent that opposes the federal health care law, took offense at the email she received from him.
Hall wrote on her website that she met Gaetz after Monday's meeting of the Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. She later sent him an email to explain her position that Florida lawmakers should nullify the law and refuse to implement it. He replied back, saying that he agreed with her belief that "Obamacare" is unconstitutional but took issue with her approach.
Gaetz then recounted a story of the "Nullification Crisis" facing President Andrew Jackson in 1832. According to Gaetz, an aide told Jackson that the nullifiers were in front of the executive mansion with torches and guns threatening to "burn us down." We'll let Gaetz tell the rest of the story:
Without lifting his head from his reading, Andrew Jackson said, "Shoot the first nullifier who touches the Flag. And hang the rest."
Chaplain, I have sworn an oath on my father's Bible before Almighty God to preserve, protect and defend the constitution and government of the United States. And that's exactly what I intend to do. Count me with Andrew Jackson.
Hall felt that reference of violence was pointed at her and the others who spoke at the committee meeting.
Gaetz said his email is being taken the wrong way. He was writing in a joking manner, he said, and trying to use a story from history to remind Hall that dissenting opinions can be heard in a respectful way.
"You can disagree without being uncivil," he said when we caught up with him today in the halls of the Senate Office Building.
This isn't the first time Gaetz has gotten in trouble for a joking reference to hanging. In February, some African-American legislators said they were offended by comments he made during debate on redistricting. "My father used to say some people would complain if you hung them with a new rope," Gaetz said. Within minutes, he was being criticized for using an analogy that evoked images of lynchings.
Hall was among roughly a dozen of people, most affiliated with the tea party movement, who spoke during the public comment period at the Senate Select Committee. About a dozen others signed up to speak but waived their time to Hall to allow her even more time. For about 10 minutes, she railed against the health care law and Obama and urged lawmakers to nullify the Affordable Care Act in Florida. When Sen. Joe Negron, the chairman of the committee, urged her to wrap up her testimony, people in the crowd shouted at him to give her more time.
Senate Majority Leader Chris Smith was the only person to publicly address the commenters after becoming visibly upset at some of the things he heard.
Click here to go to Hall's website, where you can read Gaetz's email and her reaction all in one place.