US & Canada

'Fangate': Florida governor debate delayed over fan

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Media caption"The two candidates who were invited to take part in this debate, right now are not stepping up on the stage"

A debate between two candidates for Florida governor was delayed several minutes amid a dispute over a small fan placed under one hopeful's lectern.

On Wednesday night moderators said Republican Governor Rick Scott refused to appear, saying Democratic challenger Charlie Crist's fan broke the rules.

Mr Scott's camp disputes the report, saying they were not told Mr Crist, an ex-governor, had yet taken the stage.

The episode has already been dubbed "fangate" in the US political press.

Mr Crist served as a Republican governor of the state from 2007-11. He subsequently switched to the Democratic Party. This year the state's Democrats nominated him to run for his old job.

Mr Scott, a wealthy former healthcare executive, was elected in 2010 and is now running for re-election.

The debate at Broward College in Davie, Florida, opened as scheduled on Wednesday evening with an introduction from the panel moderators, but neither candidate appeared on stage.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The debate between the two candidates eventually began and the fan stayed

After a few moments Mr Crist walked out to cheers.

"We have been told Governor Scott will not be participating in this debate," moderator Eliott Rodriguez then said, adding "somehow" a fan had appeared under Mr Crist's podium, contrary to the agreed debate rules.

Mr Crist began speaking but was cut off by the moderators. Several minutes later, Mr Scott appeared.

In an email to supporters, Melissa Sellers, Mr Scott's campaign manager said the Florida governor "never refused to take the stage and debate".

"In fact, our campaign was not notified Charlie had even taken the stage because the last we heard, Crist was in an 'emergency meeting' with debate organisers pleading for his precious fan."

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