Environmentalists were anxiously hoping that Republican presidential candidates would be asked about California’s severe drought and wildfire situation during Wednesday night’s debate, which was held in Los Angeles. In the days leading up to the event, groups had been asking CNN moderator Jake Tapper to bring up the issues, and their connection to human-caused climate change.
Turns out Tapper didn’t even have to ask. In his opening statement, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) mentioned the drought. But instead of talking about its connection to climate change or its devastating impacts, Rubio attempted a joke.
“I’m aware that California has a drought, so I made sure I brought my own water,” he said, holding up a full plastic bottle.
No one appeared to laugh.
Rubio’s joke was referencing his infamous “water-bottle-gate” moment of 2013. He was delivering the Republican rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union speech when he became visibly overwhelmed, and took what many considered to be the most awkward sip of water ever seen.
But the drought itself may not have been the best choice for a joke. Right now, an unprecedented wildfire season driven by drought is raging through the state, displacing thousands. Economically, the University of California Davis estimates the drought has cost California about $2.7 billion this year.
Right now, California is drier than its been in 500 years, and many scientists attribute the severity to climate change. But Marco Rubio doesn’t think climate change is a problem, which added to the awkwardness of his drought joke.
The reaction from Twitter was less than positive:
— Kathleen Madigan (@kathleenmadigan) September 17, 2015
Rubio makes stupid water joke at the expense of Californians suffering from a drought. Also a climate denier.
— Matt Murphy (@MattMurph24) September 17, 2015
did Rubio just make a joke about the horrific drought in california oh my god
— straight for pay (@goodbiforever) September 17, 2015