Charlie Crist: ’You Know What I’m Here For’
After being hounded by gay rumors for years and having been named in a same-sex scandal, former Fla. Gov. Charlie Crist has once again fueled rumors and made national headlines. This time, the Republican-turned-independent is in the spotlight for receiving a hug from a pizza parlor owner who bear-hugged President Barack Obama, the Palm Beach Posted reported.
Last week, Scott Van Duzer, the Republican owner of Big Apple Pizza in Fort Pierce, Fla., earned his 15 minutes of fame after he picked up Obama during a campaign visit. The incident became an Internment sensation and made Van Duzer's business a target for those opposed to the president.
Van Duzer has said that his restaurant has suffered from several reviewers on Yelp who gave it only one star, reported the Daily Kos. On Sept. 10, Van Duzer told Politico "People are saying a lot of bad things and boycotting my restaurant."
Crist made a special trip to Ft. Pierce and a beeline to the same pizzeria, where he asked Van Duzer for a big-old man-lifting bear hug. "You know what I'm here for," the 56-year-old politician told Van Duzer, who then obliged.
As it happens, Crist gave Obama a hug back, too. It happened, in 2009, when the president was campaigning in Florida for his economic stimulus bill, Reuters pointed out. In retrospect, Crist believes that sign of affection by a GOP governor to a Democrat "cost me more grief from my former party than you can ever imagine," he said during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where he endorsed Obama for re-election.
While he was the governor of Florida, Crist was on record as opposing any gay rights initiatives, including marriage equality. In June 2010, he did announce that he no longer backed the state's ban on same-sex adoption.
Crist's personal life has come under scrutiny by the press and a skeptical public. Although he is currently married, he featured prominently in a 2009 documentary called "Outrage," about politicians who oppose LGBT rights while remaining in the closet.
EDGE reported in June that Crist was accused of paying two men to hide gay affairs. WTSP, a TV station in Tampa, which was Crist's home base, obtained reports that claimed the politician paid two men to flee the state in order to hide his secret life. A TV reporter also detailed a purported conversation between Jim Morgan, the owner of a law firm where Crist works, and Damon Chase, an attorney who represents Jim Greer, the former Florida Republican Party chair, who was removed from office after a series of allegations of financial wrongdoing .
"Charlie Crist is a homosexual and had homosexual relationships with at least two men who were paid to leave the state to avoid embarrassing then Governor Crist," the document says. "Charlie Crist attempted to kiss Greer at a hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Gov. Crist had drunken escapades and his security detail had to cover for him."
Some bartenders, bar owners and bar patrons have claimed that Crist was a regular on Tampa's gay scene until his political star began to rise in the Republican Party. Crist has always denied the rumors. "Obviously these are delusional lies these guys are making up. It's sad and pathetic,'' he has said. "I don't care what stories they make up, I'm not going to lie."