'Reckless Smear:' DeSantis Fires Back at AP in Blistering Letter

Posted: Aug 24, 2021 10:20 AM
'Reckless Smear:' DeSantis Fires Back at AP in Blistering Letter

Source: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Last week, we thoroughly covered the latest media attempt to manufacture a 'scandal' about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.  Apparently based on social media buzz and Democratic barbs, the Associated Press published a story featuring a headline and lede that seemed almost explicitly designed to convince casual readers that DeSantis has been unethically pushing an unproven snake oil COVID treatment on behalf of a major political donor, who stands to profit handsomely from the arrangement.  But all the actual facts about this "controversy" debunk the non-scandal and in fact vindicate DeSantis.  The governor's press secretary pushed back aggressively against the story and the reporter who wrote it, noting publicly that she gave him plenty of context and evidence that derailed the premise of the piece prior to its publication.  Because of the way she encouraged her followers and DeSantis supporters to join the information counter-offensive, she was suspended from Twitter for a short period of time.  The AP's incoming CEO followed-up by penning a letter to DeSantis, demanding his office cease and desist with any activity that she characterized as fostering 'harassment' against journalists:

Twitter suspended the account of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary for violating rules on “abusive behavior” after The Associated Press said her conduct led to a reporter receiving threats and other online abuse. The DeSantis aide, Christina Pushaw, saw her account locked for 12 hours, a Twitter spokeswoman said. She won’t be able to tweet, although others can retweet or “like” her messages. Earlier Friday, incoming AP CEO Daisy Veerasingham wrote to DeSantis, asking him to end Pushaw’s “harassing behavior.” AP is seeking to fight online bullying against journalists, a growing trend that is often triggered by public figures. “You will ban the press secretary of a democratically-elected official while allowing the Taliban to live tweet their conquest of Afghanistan?” Pushaw said. She said those who “challenge false narratives are often silenced by corporate media and Big Tech collusion.”

Pushaw's violation, it appears, was using a certain term:

Pushaw said her “drag them” comment was social media slang and was not meant as a violent threat. She said she deleted it because she didn’t want it to be misinterpreted. “As soon as Farrington told me he received threats, I tweeted that nobody should be threatening anyone, that is completely unacceptable,” she said. “I also urged him to report any threats to police.” Viktorya Vilk, program director for digital safety and free expression at PEN America, said the Urban Dictionary defines “drag them” as to roast (make fun of/mock) someone very hard. Its use seems to imply or encourage people to go on the attack, in a way that’s just shy of being direct, Vilk said.

Gov. DeSantis has now replied to that letter, with rhetorical guns blazing:

"I assumed your letter was to notify me that you were issuing a retraction of the partisan smear piece you published last week," DeSantis wrote. "Instead, you had the temerity to complain about the deserved blowback that your botched and discredited attempt to concoct a political narrative has received. The ploy will not work to divert attention from the fact that the Associated Press published a false narrative that will lead some to decline effective treatment for COVID infections." ... DeSantis wrote the AP produced "zero evidence" that Florida's efforts were being undertaken for any reason other than to help citizens suffering from the disease. "While the public's trust in corporate outlets like the AP is at historic lows, there is no doubt that some will decline to seek life-saving treatment as a result of the AP's inflammatory headline," he wrote..."You cannot recklessly smear your political opponents and then expect to be immune from criticism," he wrote, adding its credibility had been diminished. "The corporate media's ‘clicks-first, facts-later’ approach to journalism is harming our country. You succeeded in publishing a misleading, clickbait headline about one of your political opponents, but at the expense of deterring individuals infected with COVID from seeking life-saving treatment, which will cost lives. Was it worth it?"

"I stand by the work of my staff who went out of their way to provide the AP with the factual information necessary to dispel the AP's preferred narrative," the governor also wrote.  "DeSantis hits the AP not only for misleading, whining, & campaigning to shut down speech, but also for jeopardizing public health by sowing baseless fear of legitimate medical treatments," Dan McLaughlin notes.  And Noah Blum's observation about the whole episode, and this exchange in particular, strikes me as generally correct. Many conservatives see DeSantis as an emerging national leader not just because of his governing decisions and results, but due to the constant string of bogus media attacks against him -- and the manner in which he fights back:

I'll leave you with the governor continuing to promote the post-infection COVID treatment, which is not the least bit scandalous for all the reasons we've mentioned: 

As he's repeatedly said, vaccines are by far the best way to prevent serious illness from this virus.  But newly-infected people can hugely reduce their chances of hospitalization or death with these treatments -- which are endorsed by public health officials, touted by the Biden White House, and already paid for with federal dollars, costing Floridians nothing at the point of care.

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