Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, running to reclaim his old seat as a Democrat, told HBO’s Bill Maher Friday that he believes the Cuban travel embargo didn’t work and should be “taken away.”
“[Cuba] has been held hostage by a small Cuban community in Florida for a very long time,” Maher said, adding that if politicians had the courage to stand up to those exiles, college kids would be going to Cuba for spring break next month.
Crist agreed, saying it was the right thing to do.
“I mean, the embargo has been there, what, 50 years now?” he said. “I don’t think it worked. It is obvious to me that we need to move forward, and I think get the embargo taken away. Really. I believe that.”
Gov. Rick Scott didn’t take kindly to Crist’s characterization of Florida’s Cuban community.
“The suggestion that Cuban Americans need to be ‘stood up to’ is insulting,” Scott said in a statement. “Our Cuban community needs to be stood up FOR. Our nation is great because we were built on a foundation of freedom and democracy. That is not true in Cuba and we should not pretend it is. The importance of maintaining the embargo is that it stands for the Cuban people’s right to be free.”
State Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, who was born and raised in a Cuban community in Florida, also found Crist’s words offensive.
“As the son of Cuban exiles, who are the victims of the Castro regime’s oppression, I am deeply offended by Charlie Crist’s shameful comments,” he said in a statement issued from his office. “Our community has endured great pain to now have to endure Crist’s disrespectful statement. Note to Crist: The U.S embargo on Castro will not be lifted until Cubans are no longer accosted in the streets of Cuba or tortured in Castro’s gulag; until the day that Cubans can assemble without fear and a free press exists; and until the day that they can cast a ballot knowing that they will not be physically beaten or intimidated.”
Garcia said it was embarrassing that at a “moment when the Cuban people need the most solidarity,” Crist was on the “wrong side of history.”
Watch Crist’s appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher” here: