Rick Scott interview gets hard to watch

The Republican Govroner of Florida Rick Scott just gave one of the most awkward and painful interviews in recent memory — and, in the process, offered a case study in why Donald Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims is so dangerous.

As reported by CNN, the interview took place on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and it began innocuously enough, with hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough asking Scott whether he planned to endorse a candidate for next Tuesday’s Republican primary in the state.

Then Scarborough asked Scott about a major news item: Donald Trump’s statement during an interview with CNN Wednesday night that “I think Islam hates us.

Scarborough wanted to know whether Scott agreed with that sentiment. Scott dodged the question, saying that Florida is “the best melting pot in the world” but noting that he wanted to stop allowing Syrian refugees in Florida until they could get better security vetting.

Scarborough pressed him. Fine, he said, the vetting of refugees is a fair subject for debate. But what about Trump’s statement?

“I’m just asking generally, do you think that Muslims hate Americans? That Islam hates America, as Donald Trump said last night?” Scarborough asked.

Scott, who has a reputation for evasiveness, once again refused to give a yes or no answer, instead talking about his home state. “I can tell you what’s going on in Florida, we…”

Scarborough tried one more time, again, to no avail:

Scarborough: “No, no, no, I don’t want to know what’s going on in Florida. I want to know what’s going on in your head, Governor. We’re friends. I want you to answer the question. Do you think personally think that Islam is a religion that hates America?”

Scott: “So Joe, what I can tell you, in our state we have a lot of Muslims that live in our state, we have a lot of Latin Americans who live in our state, we all get along … we love people coming to our state.”

At this point, Brzezinski interrupted, and gave it her best shot:

Brzezinski: “Rick, Rick, I know you and Joe are friends and this is a little awkward. Can you answer the question or should we scoot?”

Scott: “I can tell you that I’m glad everybody is in Florida. We’re doing well here. The debate is going to be fun tonight. I hope they talk about jobs. It’s the most important issue.”

Scott either agrees with Trump’s characterization of Islam and its 1.6 billion adherents, or he’s refusing to condemn Trump for political reasons. Either way, it says a lot about Scott’s character — or lack thereof.

But the more important story here is about Trump, and why his statements about Muslims matter so much. By saying the things he has — calling for a total ban on letting Muslims into the country, and now declaring that Islam itself is at war with the U.S. — he’s made it more acceptable and less scandalous for other politicians to say such things.

Want proof? About an hour after Scott’s appearance, former CEO and Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was on the show — and dodged the same question, albeit more artfully.

Yikes.  This is politics in 2016.

Below is the text of the full interview:

Rick Scott interview gets Super Awkward (VIDEO)

Rick Scott interview gets Super Awkward (VIDEO)

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Why wouldn’t you endorse the sitting senator from Florida? That seems like a pretty easy decision to me.

GOV. RICK SCOTT: Marco’s done a very good job, we got elected together back in 2010, he’s done a very good job as our senator.

You know, Donald Trump is a friend. I’ve met Ted Cruz… So I’m going to continue to trust the voters.

SCARBOROUGH: So you’re a friend to him, would you tell your friend Donald Trump that he should walk back his statements about Muslims, that Islam hates America, that Islam hates us. Do you think Muslims in the state of Florida hate America?

RICK SCOTT: Well. As you know, in Florida, we’re the best melting pot in the world. We love everybody coming to our state. After the Paris bombings I did ask the federal government to not allow any more Syrian refugees into the state, until we vetted them. I’m still not sure they are vetting them properly.

SCARBOROUGH: That could be a reasonable policy position if you wanted to debate that. I’m just asking generally, do you think Islam hates America like Donald Trump said last night?

RICK SCOTT: I’ll tell you what’s going on in Florida–

SCARBOROUGH: No, no, no, no.

We want to know what’s going on in your head, Governor. Do you personally think that Islam is a religion that hates Americans?

SCOTT: Joe, what I can tell you is we have a lot of Muslims in our state —

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Wrap it.

SCOTT: We love people coming here as tourists, we’re a great melting pot.

Donald Trump can talk about the things he wants to talk about. Marco Rubio can, Ted Cruz. John Kasich.

MIKA: No, no. Mm. MM. That did not answer any question we asked.

Rick, I know you and Joe are firends, this is kind of awkward — Can you answer the question? Or should we scoot?

RICK SCOTT: I can tell you— We’re doing well here. The debate is going to be fun.