Pinellas County Sheriff candidate Everett Rice had some harsh words for the moderator of a candidate forum Monday evening in Palm Harbor.
Candidates running for Pinellas County Sheriff, County Commission and state offices participated in the forum.
The exchange between Rice and Smith happened near the end of the event, when sheriff candidates were on stage.
At one point, the discussion centered around a controversial organization called the "Oath Keepers," a group that is described by Wikipedia as law enforcement and military personnel who "resist actions taken by the U.S. government that overstep constitutional boundaries."
The Oath Keepers organization was mentioned in a Tampa Bay Times article about sheriff candidate Everett Rice that was published four days prior to Monday's forum. The article claimed Rice had signed an Oath Keepers pledge. The article also talked about Rice's political "allies and admirers" and called them a "veritable who's who of America's right-wing fringe - birthers, tax protesters, militia enthusiasts."
Smith angered Rice during the forum when he asked a question that suggested Rice might support beliefs of "birthers," a group of people who question President Barack Obama's citizenship. Birthers were also mentioned in the Tampa Bay Times article about Rice.
Here's the exchange between Smith and Rice:
Adam Smith: "I gather you said you're not sure if Obama is a citizen. Is anybody else unconvinced that the President of the United States is a citizen? Raise your hand if you are confident President Barack Obama is a United States citizen."
Everett Rice (grabs microphone): "Adam, I'd like for you to say that question again and who you're directing it at. Did you say that I didn't think...(Rice stops talking mid-sentence when Smith speaks)"
Adam Smith: "That's what I read in the paper this week."
Everett Rice: "Well, your paper was wrong and I think if you'll go back and read your paper you'll see it never said that."
Adam Smith: "You're confident Barack Obama is not a United States citizen?"
Everett Rice: "Your reporter asked me if I thought the President's birth certificate was valid and I said, 'I don't know, it's not an issue with me, he's our President, let's move on'. And, how you or any other reader can convert that to me being a birther is asinine." (Rice supporters in audience applaud loudly)
Adam Smith: "Let me rephrase it, does anybody else have doubts that the President's birth certificate is valid?" (no one responds)
The exchanged ended and the forum continued without any more heated discussions.
The at 6:30 p.m. July 17 at the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater Octagon Arts Center, 2470 Nursery Road.
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Candidates who appeared in Monday evening's forum include-
State Rep District 65
- Philip Tropea
- Marg Baker
- Tory Anthony Perfetti
County Commissioner at Large District 1
- Neil Brickfield
- Janet C. Long
County Commissioner At Large District 3
- Nancy Bostock
Pinellas County Sheriff
- Bob Gualtieri
- Greg Pound
- Everett Rice
- Scott P. Swope
State Senator Dist 20
- Roy Zahid