U.S. Sen. Rick Scott made a habit of traveling the state ahead of storms, such as Hurricane Irma in 2017, warning them to evacuate if needed and take precautions otherwise.
But during a cable news hit Monday, Scott suggested those evacuation orders were optional after all.
Speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Box Monday, where a host challenged his opposition to vaccine mandates for COVID-19, Scott said evacuation orders were mandates of a different sort.
“What we did was, I went around the state and said here’s what we know today,” Scott said, when asked about evacuation orders during Hurricane Irma.
Scott said he opened relief centers and “made sure we never ran out of fuel.”
“We kept the state open,” Scott said, noting that six million people evacuated during that storm.
Though the evacuations were framed as mandatory at the time, Scott suggested they were really optional after all, a contrast to his pitched rhetoric as storms approached.
“What we did was, we gave people good information. I never did an evacuation order. I don’t believe in evacuation orders. I believe that you’ll make a good decision. And that’s what people did,” Scott said.
Scott’s rhetoric at the time did not suggest there was much of an option, however.
“If you have been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now,” he said at a morning news conference, as reported by CNN. “Do not wait. Evacuate. Not tonight, not in an hour. You need to go right now.”
“If you have been ordered to evacuate,” the Naples Daily News quoted him as saying, “now is the time to evacuate.”
Scott’s calls for evacuation made national news, with a Washington Post article reminding workers they could be fired for evacuating storm zones without permission from their employers.
Polling showed Scott’s constant evacuation urging, coupled with the shifting path of the storm, led to evacuation order fatigue. A Mason-Dixon survey said only 57% would evacuate if ordered to when facing a threat commensurate to that of Hurricane Irma.