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OPINION

The Ron DeSantis Communications Team Takes Andrea Mitchell and NBC News Head-On

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

What has become blatantly clear is that the press has taken on a mission to work against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. It has been years now of the media – locally in Florida and on the national level – working in concert to deride DeSantis, almost as a default setting. He was scorned throughout the pandemic. "60 Minutes" performed a hit job, one so flawed it was debunked before airtime. The press collectively chose to lie about his legislation for parents and schools, with all outlets agreeing that "Don't Say Gay" was an approved description of the bill and subsequent law. 

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Now, with the next presidential election season ramping up, the likelihood of a DeSantis campaign has only meant more accusations and fewer signs of accountability from the press. The latest batch of inaccuracies (what would be described as "misinformation" if arriving from elsewhere) regarding the governor concerns the education standards in his state. Two primary prevarications are being delivered; that books are being banned, and that black history is being removed from schools.

The first point is easily dismissed. Taking select titles off of reading lists due to age appropriateness is not a ban, not any more than an R-rated film limiting under-17 ticket purchases is banning a movie. But it makes for a nice shorthand accusal, so this canard is allowed to stick in the media.

The next, regarding the blocking of black history, is also being completely contorted. I recently explained how it is not only wrong to suggest DeSantis wants to eliminate black history teachings, it is 180 degrees out of phase, as there are laws stipulating the topics are to be taught in schools. Those laws were signed by DeSantis in recent years. This brings us to the case of Andrea Mitchell and NBC News.

The not-at-all-past-her-prime Mitchell recently sat with Kamala Harris to interview the vice president on her MSNBC program. In the course of their meeting, Ms. Mitchell let fly with a wildly inaccurate premise.

  • "What does Governor DeSantis not know about black history and the black experience when he says that slavery and the aftermath of slavery should not be taught to Florida school children?"
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There really is no excuse that can be made for this level of deceit. The laws are readily available, the story is one that is in the news constantly and, therefore, easily researched. The slightest level of investigation into the matter would reveal the specifics of the laws. The furor over the highlighted AP Black History concerns new teaching materials, which did not pass the standards of the recent-passed anti-CRT legislation. Keeping out a curriculum that involved queer studies and had contemporary political activism is not blocking black history.

Andrea Mitchell's false claim was met with corrective pushback from the DeSantis communications team. I asked DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin if they had spoken with NBC News about this very segment and if they had received any comment from the network. "We did call the network," Griffin stated, "after she first made the claim, and nothing came of it." 

Following that silence, the DeSantis team went higher, contacting management at the cable news channel and the network offices. This seems to have led to Mitchell coming out on a later broadcast to "clarify" her comments. DeSantis Deputy Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern explained how this post-script was not at all sufficient.

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Griffin saw this piece and stated it was "a typical non-apology response that doubles down on her lie." Redfern explained to me, "Our office did our due diligence and elevated this further up the chain in MSNBC and NBC. We were told that this was being sent to 'standards,' and all that appears to have come out of 'standards' was the non-apology."

As a result, Griffin came out with a rather bold declaration from the governor's communications office. They would be curtailing any future engagement with NBC News, and if there were to be a re-establishment of a communications line between the network and the DeSantis team, it would be dependent on an apology and correction from Andrea Mitchell.

That may sound like a stark reaction, but in truth, there is not anything risky from the DeSantis camp with this type of decision. Over the years, Griffin, Redfern, and previous press secretary Christina Pushaw have shared numerous instances of the press behaving in a bad-faith manner with their team. They have shown when reporters were given particulars about a story only to see those details altered, contradicted, or ignored outright in the subsequent piece. 

The press has shown this tendency to go forward with a preset agenda regarding DeSantis, despite being given accurate information. For his office to take this approach seems not only justified but, by this stage, essential. The governor has already angered some journalists when he made it a regular practice not to grant interviews with the slanted press outlets. 

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NBC cannot really complain about this latest stance from the governor's office. They have been shown – quite clearly – to be trafficking in bold falsehoods and taking little effort to correct the record. The network cannot contend that this is an unjustified decision. And the DeSantis office faces little risk in stepping away from involvement with NBC. What might happen? Will they report negatively on Governor DeSantis? Again?

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