Governor Booed Out of Major League Ballpark: What’s Social Media Got to Do With It?

Sometimes your best friend can be your worst enemy. That is the lesson Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott learned the hard way when a Facebook and Twitter-initiated campaign got him booed out of a major league ballpark on opening day.

Sometimes your best friend can be your worst enemy.  That is the lesson Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott learned the hard way when a Facebook and Twitter-initiated campaign got him booed out of a major league ballpark on opening day.

Since taking office in January, Scott has aggressively used social media to get his message out, most recently holding town hall meetings on both Twitter and Facebook.

So no irony was lost when it was a campaign with roots on Twitter and Facebook that got the first-term governor booed out of St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Stadium when he threw the ceremonial first pitch in an opening game day between the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles this month.

Named “Boo Rick Scott on Opening Day,” the social media campaign that was virtually ‘liked’ by more than 1,200 people on Facebook and retweeted by thousands, drew hundreds of literal protesters to the stadium where the festivities of the game were interrupted by angry boos.

People chanted inside the stadium when the governor made the first pitch, while hundreds of protesters lined the streets outside and angry ticketholders tried to bring anti-Scott signs into the stadium, according to reports.

Scott has nearly 62,000 ‘likes’ on his Facebook page, and 10,422 followers on Twitter.  He’s used the networking sites for more traditional means like the recent town halls he held and betting other governors on sporting events, but also for announcing key policy initiatives, such as revealing discussions with leaders in Panama on Twitter and announcing his decision to halt a hotly-debated and high-stakes  high speed rail system in the state only on Facebook.

Scott is not the first politician to use social media, but his particular use of it, as detailed above, has put him in hot waters with both Republicans and critics alike who argue he is using the tools not to reach constituents, as he claims, but to hide behind his policies and avoid the traditional news media.

“You have much more control over the debate,” Mark Ferrulo, head of Progress Florida, a liberal advocacy group, told The Gainesville Sun.  “You have much more control over the questions.  We saw at the Twitter town hall that he just completely dodged all the hard-hitting, sensitive questions.”

The “Boo Rick Scott on Opening Day” campaign was organized by Peter Schorsch, a St. Petersburg-based political consultant and author of a daily news blog on Florida politics.

The main target of the protesters’ ire was Scott’s just-passed reorganization of the education system and plans for drastically cutting state programs to reduce spending.

Schorsch told Patch.com the viral nature of the social media campaign he began, and the “resultant media attention” made it the “first significant anti-Scott protest since he became Governor.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott and his staff have said to have posted 52 separate Facebook page posts and tweeted 151 messages on Twitter, both receiving thousands of comments, in the 10 weeks since he’s taken office.

So just as it seems Scott will keep his vow to use social media, for whatever means, his opponents will as well.

“So long as the Governor continues to pursue policies which negatively impact the neediest among us, yes, we will continue to protest Scott’s actions,” pledged Schorsch.