MIAMI (CBS4/AP) – Florida Gov. Rick Scott faced the elephant in the room – so to speak – upon returning Thursday from a weeklong trade mission to Spain.
Scott told reporters at Miami International Airport he apologized if he had done anything wrong in Madrid earlier this week while meeting the Spanish King Juan Carlos.
During the visit, Scott repeatedly asked the monarch about his recent and controversial elephant hunt in Botswana. The 74-year-old king injured both his hip and his public standing by going on the expensive hunt while his country confronts a deep financial crisis.
In videos of the encounter, Scott walks into the room telling the monarch: “I still want to hear — I’ve ridden elephants, but I’ve still never tried to shoot one.”
It was clear in the videos that the extravagant hunting trip was the last thing the king wanted to discuss, having weathered such a backlash from the Spanish people.
The king had apologized publicly for the trip, which left him temporarily unable to fulfill official duties.
Scott later told the king he should have come up with a better tale than saying he hurt his hip getting out of bed.
The king laughed stiffly in the video.
“Gosh, If I did anything to do anything wrong I completely apologize. The king’s a wonderful person. He’s a wonderful world leader,” Scott told reporters when asked about the matter Thursday.
Scott called the trade mission successful, adding “but time will tell.”
Meanwhile the Spanish press has lampooned the governor, calling him “tactless”.
He said despite Spain’s financial crisis and high unemployment — nearly a quarter of the nation is out of work — its banks are looking to diversify. He also pointed to companies such as The ACS Group, which is involved in a South Florida highway construction project. He said a number of other infrastructure companies are also interested in Florida.
“South Florida is the gateway to Latin America, so Spanish companies that want to do business in Latin America, this is where they should set up shop,” he added.
Scott said he and the Spanish king discussed many subjects, and he hoped the monarch and his wife Queen Sofia will come to Florida for next year’s “Viva 500″ celebration.
The celebration commemorates 500 years since Juan Ponce de Leon landed on Florida’s east coast. He and his crew were the first recorded Europeans to explore what is now the continental United States. They also gave the area the name “La Florida.”
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