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Aide fired over Florida debate foul

By the CNN Political Unit
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Alex Sink caught breaking debate rules
  • During a break, Sink is shown a text message from an aide
  • Sink campaign says the sender was angry at Scott's "distortion of facts"
  • Debate rules say no notes are allowed
  • The incident takes place during the CNN/St. Petersburg Times televised debate

Tampa, Florida (CNN) -- A campaign aide to Florida gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink has been removed after the Democratic nominee was sent a text message during a televised debate -- in violation of the rules that the candidates agreed to.

Sink's campaign did not name the advisor. But a campaign spokesman confirmed it was Brian May, who signed the rules agreement before the Monday evening debate.

The incident took place at the CNN/St. Petersburg Times Florida gubernatorial debate when Sink's make-up artist delivered a two-sentence message on a cell phone during a break.

Republican nominee Rick Scott, who was sitting next to Sink in the nationally televised debate, noticed the violation and notified a CNN official. The CNN official approached the make-up artist and Sink, and confiscated the cell phone.

The message read: "The attorney who [w]on the Sykes suit said alex sink did nothing wrong. Tell not to let him keep talking about her."

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After the debate, the Sink campaign released a statement from the candidate announcing that the advisor who sent the message has been removed from the campaign.

"After the debate tonight, one of my campaign advisors admitted he tried to communicate with me during one of the breaks," Sink said. "While he told me it was out of anger with Rick Scott's repeated distortion of facts, it was a foolish thing to do. It violated a debate agreement and I immediately removed him from the campaign. "

Earlier in the day, officials with both campaigns signed a statement that agreed, among other things, that no notes would be allowed.

"There will be no opening and closing statements, no notes and no props on stage," read the statement. "Candidates will be provided water, notepad and pen."

CNN did not allow campaign aides to accompany the candidates backstage, but Sink and Scott were permitted to use their own make-up artists during the debate.

On the air after the commercial break, Scott pointed out the breach.

"First Alex, you say you always follow the rules," he said. "The rule was no one was supposed to give us messages during the break, and your campaign did with an iPad or an iPod."

For the record, the device Sink read from was neither an iPad nor an iPhone but a Droid smartphone.