Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) demanded an apology from the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday, in response to Jackson's recent comments likening Florida to the "Selma of our time" and an "apartheid state."
"Jesse Jackson owes every Floridian an apology for his reckless and divisive comments," Scott said in a statement released Wednesday, according to the Miami Herald. "It is unfortunate that he would come to Florida to insult Floridians and divide our state at a time when we are striving for unity and healing."
Jackson's comments came during a mock legislative session on Tuesday, meant to address questions in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal of charges stemming from the 2012 killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. Flanked by members of the Dream Defenders protest group, Jackson urged Florida lawmakers to repeal the state's controversial "stand your ground" law in a staged demonstration.
"The manipulation of African-Americans [in Florida] is disgraceful ... You incentivize killing people," he declared. "'Stand your ground' laws must end." He went on to assert that a boycott of the "apartheid state" of Florida would be in order if the U.S. Department of Justice failed to file a civil lawsuit against Zimmerman.
Jackson also compared Scott to former Alabama Gov. George Wallace (D), who attempted to obstruct desegregation by physically blocking two black students from entering the University of Alabama's Foster Auditorium in 1963. “We’ve seen Southern governors before change their minds," said Jackson, alluding to the apology that Wallace would later issue for his segregationist stances. "Wallace said we couldn’t go to the University of Alabama. He had to change his mind."
Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R) took to Twitter to assert that Jackson's comparison of Scott and Wallace crossed the line. "I am embarrassed for him and his irresponsible statement," he tweeted.
Dream Defenders' Steve Parjett told the Herald that he applauded Jackson for being "committed to continuing to help us and continuing to provide support."
Jackson spent Tuesday night on the floor of Scott's office in solidarity with the Dream Defenders, which recently entered the third week of a sit-in to protest racial injustice following Zimmerman's acquittal.