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CNN Today

Gov. Jeb Bush Faces Unwanted Company Protesting Outside Office

Aired January 19, 2000 - 2:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: If Florida's governor, Jeb Bush, seemed a bit miffed at having unwanted company, yesterday, you can only imagine how the governor feels today. What began as a two-man sit-in outside Mr. Bush's office has mushroomed and has managed to overshadow the grand unveiling of the governor's new budget.

CNN's John Zarrella reports on the tension in Tallahassee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They sang as they gathered outside the entrance to Florida Governor Jeb Bush's office. About 200 people, including 20 state legislators, came to demonstrate their support for two black lawmakers. Tuesday night, State Senator Kendrick Meek and Representative Tony Hill began a sit-in in the governor's suite of offices. The intent: to protest an executive order by Governor Bush which will end affirmative action for state contracts, state jobs and education.

KENDRICK MEEK, FLORIDA STATE SENATE: And I think it's vitally important that the governor needs to understand that what he thinks is right doesn't necessarily mean that it is right.

ZARRELLA: Bush appeared extremely annoyed by the action of the two legislatures, who spent the night sitting in and are still there.

GOV. JEB BUSH, FLORIDA: To come in and make a demand that I reverse a decision is just sophomoric.

ZARRELLA: At one point, when Bush came face-to-face with the legislators and a group of journalists, he was caught saying, quote, "kick their asses out." It's unclear whether he was referring to the journalists or the two legislators. Bush and Florida's Republican Party have gone to great lengths to encourage more minorities to join the party. This showdown over affirmative action could be damaging.

CYNTHIA CHESTNUT, FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: The governor refuses to sit down and talk to elected officials, elected black officials. That is a message out there for African-Americans and the Republican Party: We are not coming under that tent.

ZARRELLA: The governor signed his executive order two months ago. It has taken longer to come to a head than some people thought. But now that it has, Governor Bush may be facing his first major confrontation since he took office a year ago.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATERS: As for those comments concerning posteriors and the removal thereof, Governor Bush's staff says the order was aimed at journalists there to cover the story and not the protesters themselves.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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