Latest debate flap: Aide texts during Florida candidate forum

Rachel Rose Hartman
October 26, 2010
Alex Sink turns to Rick Scott during Monday's Florida Governor debate.
Alex Sink turns to Rick Scott during Monday's Florida Governor debate.

During a commercial break in Monday's televised Florida gubernatorial debate, Democratic nominee Alex Sink was handed a cell phone displaying a text message from Sink's staff. Unfortunately for Sink, her Republican opponent noticed.

"The rule was no one was supposed to give us messages during the break, and your campaign did with an iPad or an iPod," Republican Rick Scott said on air once the debate resumed.

Following the debate, Sink confirmed that an aide had violated the debate rules by handing her the message -- even though the gadget in question was a Droid phone, not one of the Apple suite of smartphone products. Sink then acknowledged she had fired the aide in question.

The goal of a debate is for the public to learn more about candidates in their own words. But thanks to the candidates' frenetic positioning for advantage, the debates themselves can become fodder for further campaign-related controversy. Below, we map out some past debate SNAFUs that ended up making headlines:

  • In 2000, Al Gore's staff confirmed he had received an anonymous video and notes related to George W. Bush's debate prep in an apparent attempt to sabotage Bush's campaign.
  • During the 2004 presidential debate, cameras captured what appeared to be an object beneath George W. Bush's suit, which set off a flurry of conspiracy theories that Bush was listening to someone feed him lines while he was behind the debate podium.
  • Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky made headlines for issuing rigid debate requirements in 2004, including: no live coverage, taping in the afternoon, no audience, and no use of any sound clips or video in campaign commercials.
  • A whisper heard during a 2008 presidential debate sparked speculation that Mitt Romney was receiving help from someone off-stage.
  • The selection of PBS's Gwen Ifill to moderate a 2008 vice presidential debate created a minor uproar because Ifill was writing a book about Barack Obama that was scheduled to be released after the election.
  • Monday's Kentucky Senate debate is making headlines today not for what the candidates said or did, but for an attack that took place outside the debate site.

(Photo of Alex Sink during Monday's debate: AP/Scott McIntyre)