Crist tells Colbert race was a factor in Republican dislike of his Obama hugby George Bennett | February 12th, 2014
Charlie Crist says his hug of President Barack Obama in 2009 incensed Republicans in part because Obama is black.
The Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat made the claim while appearing Tuesday night on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report to promote his new book.
Crist was a popular Republican governor when he hugged the recently inaugurated Democratic president at a February 2009 rally in Fort Myers to promote the $787 billion Democratic stimulus bill. The hug helped crystallize GOP discontent with the moderate Crist, who fell behind Marco Rubio in the quest for a Republican Senate nomination and left the party in April 2010. Crist became a Democrat in late 2012 and is now the party’s 2014 frontrunner for governor against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Host Stephen Colbert asked Crist why the Obama hug “ended it” with him and the GOP.
That led to this exchange:
Crist: “Several reasons, I think. Number 1, he was there to talk about the Recovery Act, the stimulus, as people call it. And a lot Republicans took issue with that. So I think that was part of it. Sadly, I think another part of it was that he was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American, and…”
Colbert: “Oh, you’re not going to play the race card.”
Crist: “I’m not going to play it, no.”
Colbert: “You just did. You just did. Would you like to pick it up again and put it in your pocket? Because you just played the race card.”
Crist: “Yeah, well, I’m just trying to tell the truth. I’ve seen a level of vitriol directed at this president that I have never seen directed at President Kennedy or maybe President Johnson or even President Carter.”