Last night, during an appearance on CNN, Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott defended his stewardship of Columbia/HCA, a large for-profit hospital chain that pled guilty to 14 felonies and paid $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines for defrauding Medicare. Scott explained that he invested his life savings in the business to “built the largest health provider in the world” and stressed that he “took responsibility for what went wrong”:
SCOTT: And what I tell people is, you know, when you’re in business, anything that goes wrong, you should take responsibility if you’re the CEO. I do. The difference is let’s think about where we are in the state. We have the highest unemployment on record. We have almost 50 percent of our home owns under water on their mortgages. We’re walking into a five-plus billion dollar deficit. Has any politician in the state taken responsibility for putting us in this position? No. What I tell people all the time is I’m a business person. I know, you know, you put up your money, you try to build your companies and you take responsibility for what goes wrong. I do. When I’m governor, I hope nothing goes wrong. If it does, I’ll show up, I’ll take responsibility and I’ll fix it.
Scott may certainly be sorry for what happened, but it seems that the only thing he took was “a $9.88 million severance package, along with 10 million shares of stock worth up to $300 million at the time” after he was ousted from the Columbia/HCA board. In fact, during a deposition Scott gave in 2000 about his time as head of Columbia/HCA, “he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 75 times,” an issue Scott’s challenger, Attorney General Bill McCollum tried to use against him. McCollum “circulated a transcript in which Scott took the Fifth even when asked if he worked for Columbia/HCA Corp., in addition to questions about the firm’s accounting and billing practices.” According to the transcript, Scott was holding a card, which read “Upon advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer the question by asserting my rights and privileges under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
During the interview with CNN, Scott reiterated that he would not be releasing his deposition in a separate lawsuit against Solantic, a series of urgent care clinics he established across Florida. That business has also come under fire for engaging in the very same kind of practices that led to Columbia/HCA’s downfall. “Well, it’s a private matter. It’s something — it’s not — has nothing to do with this race,” he told CNN. “What I’m going to campaign on is what I’ve campaigned on in the primary. It’s about jobs.”
Scott also added that that he would not support changing the 14th amendment to revoke birthright citizenship and insisted that he would reject any federal stimulus dollars. “I think stimulus money is an absolute mistake. There’s no free money in those stimulus dollars. We’re going to have to pay those dollars back whether we pay it back, our children pay it back, our grandchildren pay it back. Stimulus does not work.”
Scott offered an identical, word-for-word, defense of his past to CNN this morning:
,Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who has called and congratulated Scott on his victory, says he still has questions about Scott’s past at Columbia/HCA: “I still have serious questions … about issues with his character, his integrity, his honestly, things that go back to Columbia/HCA and I have not had the occasion to really actually even get acquainted with him,” McCollum said.