A customer who was captured on a video that has gone viral driving Florida’s governor Rick Scott, from a Starbucks, in an angry confrontation over healthcare says she wants to sit down with him over coffee and politely debate the issue.
Cara Jennings, a self-declared community activist, harangued Scott and called him “an asshole” during a brief encounter on Tuesday at the coffee shop in Gainesville, where the politician was visiting a factory. Instead of engaging with Jennings, Scott and his entourage are seen on the video quietly slipping out of the Starbucks without the coffee he had paid for.
“I would have preferred to have more of a dialogue, that was my intention when I started talking to him, but he just left as quickly as possible,” Jennings told the Guardian on Wednesday.
“I’d welcome the opportunity to meet with the governor and talk to him over coffee, but I think it’s unlikely he’ll take me up on it. He only seems to be receptive to corporate interests and conservative thinktanks; he certainly wasn’t very open to talking to me at the coffee shop.”
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Jennings, who was once an elected city commissioner in Lake Worth, Florida, said she would be willing to meet Scott at any time to continue the debate over his signing into law last week of a new measure that denies state funding to Planned Parenthood. Scott’s office did not return a call from the Guardian extending Jennings’s invitation.
“Before the video began it was briefly a conversation that became more heated,” she said. “I asked why he passed that awful bill [on abortion restrictions] and told him that women like me depend on these public health services. He told me I should go to the county health clinic.
“To have a governor at a coffee shop giving healthcare advice is totally inappropriate. I started to explain that his refusal to have Medicaid expansion left people like me in a healthcare gap, and he just blew it off. A governor with integrity would have said ‘yeah, I signed that bill’ and he could have heard my concerns as a constituent and lifelong resident of Florida. We would have agreed to disagree and he could have got his coffee and left.”
Jennings said she was also angry that Scott, whom she said came in quietly and was unrecognised by most of the Starbucks customers, had claimed he had created a million jobs in Florida since taking office in 2011.
“The minimum wage in this state is so low you can be employed and still need public benefits, then he starts saying that he passed a million jobs, which is factually not verifiable. I responded saying, great, who here has a good job, and he says, you should. He was disingenuous, gave me unrequested healthcare advice, lied about the jobs then he left. That is how our governor likes to respond to a Florida resident trying to talk to him about a policy issue.”
She added that she did not regret calling Scott “an asshole”. “He has had a very direct impact on my life, his policies affect my life and thousands of others in the state, and that’s worth getting upset about and worth calling somebody an asshole who wields that kind of power,” said Jennings.
“He’s comfortable sitting in his office in the capital and legislating what healthcare choices I should make as a woman, but when it comes to talking to someone face to face he would rather leave the room.”
Jennings said she had received many supportive messages since the video was posted on YouTube.
“People are responding with incredibly positive comments, sending me emails and on Facebook. I didn’t realise how unliked the governor is, not just on the issues I brought up. He has a legacy of division that the people of Florida are very upset about.”