Michael Putney has been a fixture in Miami media for over thirty years. With so many years of experience one wonders if Putney should have expected his questions sent to Florida Governor Rick Scott before an upcoming interview to be rejected for being "insulting."
It's fair to say Putney's questions are not as civil as one would usually expect to see in an interview between a state governor and a seasoned journalist. They include words such as "clueless." So, should the governor be willing to roll with the punches? Did Putney intend to be taken seriously, or purely look get a rise out of the new governor? Let's look before you decide.
Putney's comments on the matter in the Miami Herald:
"Gov. Rick Scott, a regular on Fox News and lately a chatterbox on friendly AM radio stations in Florida, finally agreed to sit down with me for an interview, for which I was grateful, what with my suspect 'lamestream' media credentials. To kick start the conversation I even broke with journalistic tradition and sent the governor the questions in writing. Ordinarily, this is a no-no, but he’s still relatively new to doing interviews. I had hoped he wouldn’t get into that 700,000-jobs-in-seven-years riff. As Politifact noted the other day, he’s done OK with job creation though his claims are a bit exaggerated.
Maybe I was a bit too direct in my questions. On Tuesday, the governor’s communications director Steve McNamara cancelled the interview, calling some of my questions 'insulting.'"
In the interest of transparency Putney posted in his column six of the questions he presented to the governor's communications staff. Each question took up a small paragraph of page space, but some of Putney's most aggressive lines can be found in his first question to Scott:
"Are you clueless when it comes to accepting money from Washington? You turned down $2.4 billion for that high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando and $19 million more to lay the groundwork in Florida for healthcare reform. Yes, I know you think President Obama’s a European-style socialist (or worse) who never met a payroll, but the money you’re telling Washington to keep is just going to other states. Like Texas with your buddy, Gov. Rick Perry, who evidently has no qualms about accepting it. Those federal dollars are largely tax money that Floridians sent to Washington. A lot of us want it back for useful, productive programs. What’s your idea of a productive government program?"
Putney further pressed Scott on his choice of who to let in to a budget signing ceremony:
"What were you thinking when you signed the new state budget at a ceremony sponsored and staged by the Republican Party of Florida where only tea partiers and other true believers were let in and nonbelievers were kicked out? You later said you just showed up at the Villages and didn’t know demonstrators had been ordered to leave, but that’s a lame excuse. Are you the governor of all Floridians or just for Republicans and the Tea Party? That 29 percent approval rating tells me that most Floridians don’t think you’re on their side. Whose side are you on?"
The media is expected by many to act as the "Fourth Estate," holding the three branches of government accountable for their actions. That said, do you think Putney's questions were appropriate? Putney writes his questions were not aimed at insulting the governor, just "tough questions during tough times."
But where's the line between tough and disrespectful?