PolitiFact Fl On Gov. Scott And Washington Money; Rubio On Free Speech For Radicals

Jun 29, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday continued to push for more federal funding to combat the spread of the Zika virus. But the governor has a bad track record in prying dollars from Washington. That's the word from PolitiFact Florida, which says he's only gotten half of his requests for declarations of "major disasters." WUSF's Steve Newborn talks about that with PolitiFact's Josh Gillin.

Here's what PolitiFact Florida has to say about Gov. Scott's record of requesting aid from Washington, D.C.:

In what has become a familiar political two-step, Gov. Rick Scott bashed Washington after he asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help but didn’t get it.

Scott specifically blamed President Barack Obama following FEMA’s refusal to declare a state of emergency in the wake of the June 12, 2016, massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Scott had asked for $5 million to deal with emergency response efforts, medical care and counseling.

"It is incredibly disappointing that the Obama Administration denied our request for an Emergency Declaration," Scott said in a June 20 press release. "Last week, a terrorist killed 49 people, and wounded many others, which was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. It is unthinkable that President Obama does not define this as an emergency."

While he routinely criticizes Obama’s policies and Washington spending, records show Scott has asked for federal money from the agency 10 times since taking office in 2011. FEMA, meanwhile, has denied his requests six times, a far higher rejection rate than the national average.

There are two types of declarations for which a governor can ask: emergency declarations, such as the one Scott made for Orlando, and major disaster declarations.

According to FEMA records, Scott has only made one other emergency declaration request, after severe storms affected some Panhandle counties between Feb. 15-24, 2016. The request was denied in part because FEMA typically limits responses to single storm systems, or storms within 72 hours of each other.

One type of declaration is for major disasters. This relief is focused on recovery support for events that state and local governments can’t handle on their own. That includes rebuilding roads and bridges, or helping people find temporary housing.

Scott’s record is far below average on this count as well. He’s made eight such requests since 2011, and four of them have been denied (one of the refusals involved the same Panhandle storms for which he had requested an emergency declaration). Nationwide, FEMA has approved about 85 percent of almost 400 disaster declaration requests in the same time frame.

Also, Sen. Marco Rubio said after the Orlando shootings that radicals are using America's tradition of free speech against us.

"In America, radical speech is not a crime," Rubio told radio show host Hugh Hewitt. "And that’s one of the challenges we face. You can stand all day long and call for all kinds of jihad. It’s only when you actually moved toward plotting and acting on it that you become actionable and arrestable. These guys know that, and they use it against us."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:


Multiple legal experts told us that Rubio’s point is generally correct because speech is protected by the First Amendment, which states:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Courts have decided that certain speech is not protected by the First Amendment such as "fighting words" (speech that would likely draw someone into a fight.) But radical speech is not included in that list.

"The First Amendment protects radical speech," said University of Chicago Law professor Geoffrey Stone who has written about the dangers of compromising First Amendment freedoms.

Experts said that Rubio omitted one key exception which stems from the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case Brandenburg vs. Ohio involving a member of the Ku Klux Klan,

The  U.S. Supreme Court found that all speech is protected "except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."

So that means Americans have a right to advocate lawlessness -- such as overthrowing the federal government -- as long as they avoid inciting imminent illegal action as narrowly defined by Brandenburg.

"For example, if a mob has seized a person they think murdered a child and X starts shouting ‘hang him, hang him,’ that would satisfy Brandenburg," Stone said. "Radical speech doesn't come close."

So verbally supporting ISIS alone isn’t a crime.