St. Petersburg, Florida -- What does Florida Governor Rick Scott actually know about the Tampa Bay area? What he said Tuesday in Tallahassee may leave you wondering.
When the governor was told that in January, the St. Petersburg Times would be changing its name to the Tampa Bay Times, the governor responded:
"Does the region call itself the Tampa Bay region? Is that what it calls itself? The region does?"
The quote was posted by reporter Steve Bousquet on the St. Petersburg Times' Buzz politics news blog.
In an interview with 10 News, Bousquet said the remark came after an informal but on-the-record meeting over coffee and donuts with about two dozen reporters in the governor's office.
The room had mostly emptied, leaving only St. Petersburg Times staff members, who then told the governor of the recently announced name change for the newspaper.
Bousquet, the Times' Tallahassee Bureau Chief, said the reporters in the room were taken aback by the statement, which he recorded on audio tape along with other portions of the meeting.
"The comment speaks for itself," Bousquet said when we asked about the context of the remark, and whether it may have been meant as a joke or if Florida's governor was truly unfamiliar with the term "Tampa Bay."
The phrase "Tampa Bay," Bousquet said, "Didn't roll off his tongue," and Gov. Scott seemed genuinely unfamiliar with the region's name.
Tampa Bay name is not new
"Tampa Bay" has been used to describe the land area of West Central Florida -- not just the body of water -- since at least 1831, according to Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.
It's also used in the names of the region's major pro sports teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Tampa Bay Rays. Scott was booed as he threw out the first pitch at the Rays' first home game this past April.
Press office response
By email, we asked one of the governor's top press aides, "if there's anything more [we] should know about the context of the governor's statement regarding the name of the Tampa Bay region."
The aide, Amy Graham, replied that it came "during an informal open house at the Governor's office with about 25 reporters, coffee and donuts." Graham also asked "[w]hat, exactly, are you reporting?"
We replied, "The story is that the governor didn't know how the state's second-largest region refers to itself and markets itself to the world."
In her response to that email, Graham did not dispute the quote. Instead, she sent links to two online stories she felt were more newsworthy, which were about reforms Scott's team is working on.
She later added, "After gathering more insight about what happened, I can tell you Governor Scott was thrown off by the word 'region.' Obviously he is very familiar with, and fond of, the 'Tampa Bay Region.' Not only does he frequently visit the 'Tampa Bay Region,' he threw out the first pitch at the Tampa Bay Ray's home opener last spring and recently attended a Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp and had lunch with players. The comment the Governor made yesterday was simply small talk. To imply anything further is ridiculous."
Marketing the name Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay and Company markets the Tampa Bay region worldwide, and promotes the area and the Tampa Bay name with the goal of bringing visitors to the region.
We asked Tampa Bay and Company spokesman Travis Claytor how the governor's apparent lack of knowledge of our area may impact the group's efforts.
In a statement, Claytor wrote, "The Governor and his office [have] always been supportive of our efforts in promoting the area as a premier destination and attracting national and international events."
"He's never given any indication to us through our efforts that he is not familiar with the area."
Your comments on Gov. Scott's remark
Viewers commenting on the 10 News Facebook page seem surprised by Scott's statement, but not totally shocked.
One viewer writes, "I think he is clueless about a lot of things. By the way, where are those jobs? Must've sent them to another 'region'."
Another viewer writes, "As much as we hate him we voted for him LOL!! Some of us posting on here probably wanted him as our man....and many more on here probably didn't even vote."
Many of the comments echo Dave Gaskins, who wrote Scott is "not a Floridian and does not know Florida."
Bousquet said Scott moved to Florida in 2003, just meeting a requirement in the Florida Constitution that candidates must live in the state for seven years to run for governor.
Grayson Kamm, 10 News