During a week when most Republican leaders were happy not be seen with Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Rick Scott had lunch with the President at his New Jersey golf course.
Scott’s office bravely announced the trip a day in advance, like he was proud to be invited.
This, as neo-Nazis, white supremacists and drooling bigots all over America were online celebrating Trump’s breezy lack of outrage following the death and violence in Charlottesville.
Praise was being heaped upon the lonesome president by KKK Wizard Emeritus David Duke, “white nationalist” Richard Spencer, and other self-branded racists, all of whom were elated to hear Trump describe their hate-belching zombie warriors as “very fine people.”
How ironic that one of those “fine people” is running for the U.S. Senate next year against Trump’s lunchtime companion. Gov. Scott will be challenged in Florida’s GOP primary by a raging bozo named Austin Gillespie, one of the organizers of the Charlottesville tiki-torch march.
Gillespie currently goes by the name of “Augustus Sol Invictus,” though previously he has presented himself as “Franco St-Fond.” He practiced some version of law for a while, but is now “retired” in Orlando at the ripe old age of 34.
In 2016, he ran for Senate as a Libertarian, a brief run highlighted by an acknowledgment that he’d killed a goat and drank its blood as a religious ritual. In a videotaped campaign speech, Augie Boy described himself as “an Old World Pagan and a white Southerner.”
To his followers he said: “I want you to take LSD and practice sorcery.”
However, neither the pagans nor the acid-heads ran to the polls in huge numbers. Gillespie got only 1,063 votes in the primary.
This was after the head of the state Libertarian party resigned in protest, calling Gillespie a fascist who advocated a second Civil War.
Once coy about his white-supremacist leanings, Augie Boy is now a star of the alt-right. That’s pretty much all you need to know about the intellectual depth of the movement.
Richard Spencer says it was Gillespie who authored the first draft of the “Charlottesville Statement,” which took toxic aim at Jews, refugees, feminists and racial equality. Augie Boy also runs a website that encourages violent action to restore white European values in the United States.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, has published a profile of Augustus/Franco/Austin that amply confirms his god complex, racist sympathies, twisted predilections, and contempt for women.
In March, a former girlfriend reported to Edgewood police that Gillespie had on different occasions beaten her, choked her, put a gun to her head and threatened to push her out of a moving car. He says none of it ever happened.
Another female acquaintance told the SPLC about the time she incurred Augie Boy’s displeasure. When she asked what she could do to prove her good intentions, he texted the following reply:
“Get MDMA, hydrocodone and your girlfriend for Monday night. Maybe then I'll calm down, after we release some tension.”
The startled woman took a screen shot to save his message.
It gets worse. Back in 2011, when Gillespie was writing as Franco St-Fond, he self-published a lurid novel featuring a character with the same name who rapes a weeping 14-year-old girl.
Imprinted at the bottom of the title page is a swastika.
Now, if you’re a political strategist for Gov. Scott, part of you is thinking that you couldn’t have invented a weaker, more hapless opponent for the primary.
Gillespie’s loathsome presence in the Senate race gives Scott a perfect opening to speak out against Nazis, racists, misogynists, anti-Semites, pagans, sorcerers, LSD users, goat-blood guzzlers, group-sex enthusiasts, you name it.
On the other hand, if you’re one of the governor’s advisers, part of you must also be wondering why in the world your candidate chose to hang out with the president at this particular moment, when Trump is the red-hot darling of Augie Boy’s chanting tiki-torchers.
It’s either bad timing, bad judgment, or both. Maybe the president begged Scott to fly up for lunch. Obviously, he was sick of listening to Steve Bannon.
The official reason for Scott’s visit was to discuss issues important to Floridians, though it’s hard to imagine that the subject of Charlottesville didn’t come up.
All those very fine people on “both sides.” Right, governor?
Now pass the damn key lime pie.
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald, firstname.lastname@example.org.