Last week, Democrats and their allies went after one of their favorite targets, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). The governor drew hysterical reactions on Wednesday because he urged students to take off their masks while speaking at the University of South Florida. "You don’t have to wear those things. They’re not very useful. If you want to keep wearing them, that’s fine, but continued masking is pretty ridiculous," were among the things he told them. As Guy called it in covering the reaction, it was another so-called 'controversy,' using quotation marks. Among those who jumped on in attacking DeSantis include fact-checkers over his comments.
On Friday, Yacob Reyes came up with a fact-check for PolitiFact, rating DeSantis' claims as "False." He specifically went after remarks from the governor that wearing masks is "COVID theater" and "not doing anything."
It's a doozy of a fact-check, and one can see from the start that it reveals a vendetta against the governor:
Throughout the pandemic, DeSantis has taken positions contrary to public health guidance from experts. In July, he issued an executive order barring schools from requiring face masks, saying that mask guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacked a "well-grounded scientific justification." We rated that claim False.
But the eyebrow-raising scene of a governor scolding students for wearing masks posed a broader question: Are there still legitimate reasons people might choose to wear face masks in public? We decided to find out.
It's worth reminding that DeSantis did point out "if you want to keep wearing them, that's fine," as he also expressed "continued masking is pretty ridiculous." Some students kept their masks on, so clearly they did not feel too "bullied" into taking them off, a complaint the left has actually had when going after DeSantis in this instance.
Reyes' fact-check, which references a response from DeSantis' Press Secretary Christina Pushaw, appears to quickly be carrying water for similar arguments the Biden administration has been making about masking and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
When we asked DeSantis about the incident, his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said the governor wanted to ensure that people were informed about the "lack of evidence for masks."
"Following Florida, the CDC has even stopped recommending mask wearing for most Americans, and even the most liberal states have dropped mask mandates for schools," Pushaw said. "After two years of mixed messages and social engineering from health authorities and media, the governor wants to make sure everyone is aware of the facts and data."
Contrary to what Pushaw suggested, the CDC based its decision on its view that the nation is in a "stronger place" in the pandemic because of the widespread availability of testing, vaccines, and other tools to prevent COVID-19. The relaxed mask recommendations for a large share of the U.S. were released in February.
While Reyes may seek to be countering Pushaw's statements, he does not actually end up doing so, as even the most liberal states had indeed relaxed mask mandates, having woken up to the political science on the subject.
Reyes' fact-check goes on to hone in on who should wear a mask, such as the immunocompromised, which becomes all the more useless once we recall that DeSantis had told the students they could wear them, in addition to expressing his frustration about "COVID theater."
Talk about going down the rabbit hole. There had been no discussion about the immunocompromised or claiming that such people with vulnerabilities might feel better about masking, except in Reyes' lengthy fact-check.
While Reyes does briefly mention the CDC's "relaxed mask recommendations," he does not mention how the updates affect 70 percent of the country at "low" or "medium" risk for COVID. He also fails to make the connection that the announcement was made shortly before President Joe Biden's State of the Union on Tuesday, as White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki similarly failed to make.
Further, Reyes' own fact-check is missing context. The students were wearing cloth masks. While Reyes mentioned that respiratory and surgical masks are the most effective, he made no mention of the cloth masks that the students were wearing.
As Spencer highlighted at the time last December, CNN's medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, told people not to wear cloth masks, especially when it comes to protecting one's self from the highly transmissible but also much more mild Omicron variant. Dr. Wen explained "don't wear a cloth mask — cloth masks are little more than facial decorations — there's no place for them in light of Omicron."
The absurdity didn't stop with Reyes' fact-check. He shared it over his social media account, but restricted replies not long after people chimed in.
The mark of a fact-checker who’s truly confident that the facts are on his side: Turned off replies https://t.co/qRIQaIIC1L— Christina Pushaw ???? (@ChristinaPushaw) March 5, 2022
Why did you ignore the evidence I sent you? pic.twitter.com/EuI1GlKRqF— Jeremy Redfern (@JeremyRedfernFL) March 5, 2022
I just looked at the sources in @yacob_reyes’ “fact check” for @PolitiFact. He didn’t even acknowledge that I emailed him.— Jeremy Redfern (@JeremyRedfernFL) March 5, 2022
He made the conscious decision to ignore me.
I know for certain that he saw my response because he shared it with one of his colleagues. pic.twitter.com/kRlUR265ef
Before he restricted replies, though, Jeremy Redfern, the press secretary for the Florida Department of Health, was able to comment that he had sent in more evidence to Reyes. Redfern also separately tweeted about it in a lengthy thread detailing that evidence.