Florida Governor Rick Scott just wanted to get a cup of coffee during a visit to a Starbucks in downtown Gainesville, but instead was ambushed by former Lake Worth City Commissioner Cara Jennings, who was already at a table, just by coincidence, of course.
“You cut Medicaid so I couldn’t get Obamacare,” she yelled at Scott, as a man who, also by coincidence, happened to have a political YouTube channel and just happened to be ready with his camera recorded everything to post online. “You’re an asshole. You don’t care about working people. You should be ashamed to show your face around here.”
The surprised Governor retorted that he had created a million jobs, and his tormenter mocked,“A million jobs? Great, who here has a great job? I was looking forward to finishing school. You really feel you have a job coming up?”
“Shame on you Rick Scott,” she added. “We depend on those services. Rich people like you don’t know what to do.”
Scott left without his coffee.
Now quick, in three seconds: what was the most unethical conduct on display here?
I have checked the comment threads in conservative and left-leaning blogs and news sources, and no commenter has mentioned it.
Here is what isn’t the answer:
- It isn’t anything Rick Scott has done. He has made legal, defensible policy decisions, all of which were mischaracterized by Jennings in her staged rant.
- No, it isn’t the fact that this was almost certainly a staged ambush by a master activist. Jennings is not, as she tried to present herself, just a random coffee-lover who happened to be in the same Starbucks the Governor walked into. She’s a former city commissioner and habitual protester who brought her own videographer along, though when he posted the clip he just called his associate “a woman,” which is deceit. Scott had a previously announced visit nearby, he has well-documented habit of patronizing Starbucks, and she was ready for him and arranged to have her political theater recorded.
That’s unethical, but it isn’t the answer either.
- Is it the fact that the news media allowed this charade, and that many sources just describe her as spontaneous protester and not a Democratic politician and community activist? No, but that is incompetent and biased, don’t you think?
- Is it the obvious hypocrisy of a woman who claims to be in the depths of poverty supposedly getting four dollar coffee? This was the most popular complaint of commenters on the conservative site The Blaze, who also mocked Jennings’ entitlement mindset.
Answer: The most unethical conduct on display here is the reaction of the Starbuck’s staff. A customer who walks into a Starbucks trusts that he or she will have a safe and pleasant experience, and will not be attacked, harassed, or abused. Whether the customer being mistreated within their store is a governor or a homeless man, it is the absolute obligation of the staff to immediately intervene and demand that the aggressor…
2. Take it outside, where there is a right to protest and act like an ass for political theater.
3. Leave, and be alerted that she is no longer welcome to sit and use the facilities as an office, because she abused the privilege.
The staff did nothing, and indeed acted as if what occurs in the store they are managing is none of their concern, even when it involves the abuse of a customer.
This wasn’t even the Bystander Effect (though that was on display too, as none of the coffee-sippers had the decency and presence of mind to tell Jennings, “Hey, shut up! This isn’t your protest space. Let the man get his coffee, and let me drink mine in peace!” Starbucks had a proprietor’s obligation to immediately act to protect its abused guest.
Almost as irritating is the fact that no commenters out of hundreds appeared to even see Starbucks as a participant with any ethical obligations at all. Either they praised Jennings for being a rude and showboating jerk, or they attacked her for hypocrisy. The reflex to choose sides and treat every social encounter these days it an us against them battle made the unequivocal Ethics Dunce invisible: