As revelers gathered at the Press Box in South Tampa late Sunday afternoon to watch the U.S play Portugal in the World Cup, images of Rick Scott taking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination were aired in the vast number of television sets located throughout the sports bar. Those images come via the Florida Democratic Party's first paid television ad of the campaign season, a rehashing of the fact that when the former governor ran the healthcare service Columbia/HCA in the 1980s and '90s, the company was later charged by the federal government with committing for Medicaid and Medicare fraud, after Scott had stepped down.
But as has been noted, the actual deposition shown in the ad was not
not part of the criminal fraud case being pursued by the federal government. In fact, as PolitiFact
reminds us, Scott was never officially questioned during the federal criminal investigation, as he left the company in 1997. The deposition in fact was part of a civil case in which Nevada Communications Corp. alleged that Columbia/HCA breached the terms of a communications contract.
Therefore, the Republican Party of Florida is charging that the ad is false, misleading, and defamatory, and Florida television stations should stop airing it.
"The truth is Rick Scott was never deposed by federal investigators in the criminal case involving his former company. The misleading claims in FDP's ad relate to a deposition for an unrelated civil contract dispute," writes Jason Torchinsky, the legal counsel to the RPOF. He goes to add that "the FDP knew, when taken as a whole, those statements are false, or, alternatively, the FDP acted in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity."
No official word has come from the Florida Association of Broadcasters or any other group representing television station general managers, but the Florida Democratic Party is reacting to Torchinsky's letter, and they're not backing down a bit.
"This is a laughable and canned campaign tactic," said FDP spokesman Joshua Karp in a statement. "Rick Scott pled the fifth 75 times, period. Rick Scott knows it. The RPOF knows it. But rather than answer the questions surrounding the largest case of Medicare fraud in our nation’s history, Rick Scott once again tries to avoid the questions and hide behind this bogus letter. After all, he’s cut special deals with campaign donors and spent his entire time as governor while refusing to release the transcripts of his depositions. If Rick Scott wants to give Floridians the truth, he should stop pleading the fifth about his own sordid legal past."
Here's the ad if you missed it: