By Joseph Wulfsohn
Published May 20, 2020
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Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pulled no punches against the media on Wednesday for its hostile coverage of his handling of the coronavirus in his state.
Speaking to reporters alongside Vice President Mike Pence, DeSantis touted Florida's improving data, citing Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force, who called it the "absolutely best data" among every state in the country.
"So any insinuation otherwise is just typical, partisan narrative trying to be spun and part of the reason is that you've got a lot of people in your profession who waxed poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was going to be just like New York," DeSantis scolded the reporters. "'Wait two weeks, Florida is going to be next. Just like Italy, wait two weeks.' Well hell, we're eight weeks away from that and it hasn't happened!"
DeSantis then pointed to Florida's "lower death rate" than states up north, in the Midwest, and in the South, adding "I was the No. 1 landing spot from tens of thousands of people leaving the No. 1 hot zone in the world to come to my state," referring to New York City.
"And so we've succeeded and I think that people just don't want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative, it challenges their assumption, so they've got to try and find a boogeyman – maybe it's that black helicopter circling the Department of Health. If you believe that, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell ya," DeSantis said.
The Florida governor also addressed the reported firing of Rebekah Jones, an official from the state's Health Department who alleged she was ousted for refusing to not censor negative data that would reflect poorly on the state's reopening.
"One, she's not a data scientist. She's somebody that's got a degree in journalism, communication and geography," DeSantis told a reporter. "She is not involved in collating any data. She does not have the expertise to do that. She's not an epidemiologist. She is not the chief architect of our web portal – that is another false statement. And what she was doing – she was putting data on the portal, which the scientists didn't believe was valid data. So she didn't listen to the people who were her superiors. She had many people above her in the chain of command and so she was dismissed because of that and because of a bunch of different things about how she did."
DeSantis went on to detail how he had also discovered that Jones was under "active criminal charges" in the state of Florida for "cyber stalking and cyber sexual harassment."
"So I've asked the Department of Health to explain to me how someone would be allowed to be charged with that and continue on because this was many months ago," the governor continued. "I have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, so her supervisor dismissed her because of a lot of those reasons and it was a totally valid way, but she should have been dismissed long before that."
Last week, Politico had some choice words for the naysayers in the mainstream media who slammed DeSantis for reopening his state after its latest coronavirus data suggests a sunny outlook.
Politico reporters Marc Caputo and Renuka Rayasam began the coronavirus newsletter by noting that Florida was "not a post-apocalyptic hellscape of coronavirus infection and cadavers stacked like cordwood."
"Florida just doesn’t look nearly as bad as the national news media and sky-is-falling critics have been predicting for about two months now," they wrote. "But then, the national news media is mostly based in New York and loves to love its Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, about as much as it loves to hate Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis."
Caputo and Rayasam acknowledged that "DeSantis looks more right than those who criticized" his decision to slowly reopen the state, pointing to the fewer than 2,000 dead and the roughly 43,000 cases, which was "a fraction of the dire predictions" that were previously made, also noting that Florida's coronavirus numbers are "dwarfed" by New York's and that "more people reportedly died in New York nursing homes than in all of Florida."
"DeSantis is actually polling worse than Cuomo in their respective states, and the Florida press is wondering why," the newsletter continued. "Part of that is style. Cuomo has a smooth delivery, a deep and calming voice and an attitude that projects he can answer any question. DeSantis sometimes comes across as peevish and defensive, has made a misstatement or two and was mocked for struggling to put on a mask. But most of the difference between DeSantis and Cuomo is due to politics. DeSantis governs a politically divided state. Cuomo is a scion of Democratic royalty in a deeply Democratic state."
The Politico reporters acknowledged that "media bias" is a major factor, noting how Cuomo has a press that "defers to him" and "preferred to cover 'Florida Morons' at the beach."
"Maybe things would be different if DeSantis had a brother who worked in cable news and interviewed him for a 'sweet moment' in primetime," the reporters wrote as an apparent knock towards CNN anchor Chris Cuomo's softball interviews with his governor brother.
However, they noted that DeSantis "can't quite take a victory lap" since he "deferred to local leaders early on" and how "more than 1.4 million unique unemployment claims have been submitted, but only half have received compensation.
"DeSantis is trying to get fixed quickly. He knows that in a state he won by less than half a point two years ago, and one that President Donald Trump won by slightly more than a point in 2016, it’s a political time bomb to have potentially hundreds of thousands of people blaming the party in power for their woes in an election year," the newsletter concluded.