'DeSantis Derangement Syndrome' hits media, Dems as 2024 approaches

DeSantis press secretary says 'the establishment media set out to destroy him'

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has become a lightning rod for frenzied, often factually-challenged attacks from Democrats and liberal journalists as he gears up for his 2022 reelection bid, amid speculation that he'll run for president in 2024

The attacks have spawned a new term: "DeSantis Derangement Syndrome."  

Most recently, some in the media faced backlash after politicizing the tragic residential building collapse in Surfside, Florida. Scores of people are feared to have died. 

WAPO REPORTER ACCUSED OF PEDDLING FALSE INFORMATION ON DESANTIS' FEMA RESPONSE

Washington Post reporter Hannah Dreier was accused of misleading people about DeSantis' response to the crisis.

On Saturday, Dreier posted an account of FEMA’s response to the building collapse. From FEMA's statement, she concluded that DeSantis had waited more than 24 hours to provide emergency relief for victims.

"There's a saying in emergency management: The first 24 hours are the only 24 hours," she tweeted. "FEMA was ready to deploy to the condo collapse almost immediately, and included the crisis in its daily briefing, but didn't get permission from Gov. DeSantis to get on the ground for a full day." The misleading tweet garnered tens of thousands of "likes" on the platform

On Sunday, DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw responded to the tweet, noting that Dreier left out crucial details from her tweets.

"This is missing important context, @hannahdreier never asked me for comment," Pushaw tweeted. "[E]mergency response started within minutes of the disaster led by Miami Dade County, amazing first responders. County mayor signed local emergency [declaration] 4:40 [and] @GovRonDeSantis signed [executive order] less than 1hr later."

Pushaw also posted a document proving that the Miami-Dade County state of emergency was not signed by Miami-Dade County Mayor Danielle Levine Cava, a Democrat, until 4:33 p.m. ET, over twelve hours after the initial collapse. DeSantis signed an emergency order at approximately 5:32 p.m. ET, less than one hour later.

Moreover, local emergency response teams were deployed immediately. 

Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat and former director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, was sharply critical of Dreier's tweet. "As the former director in FL who voted for Biden this tweet below is 100% Malarkey. FEMA would have deployed the federally funded USAR teams, which are located in @MiamiDadeCounty. They were already there," Moskowitz wrote.

Others appeared to accuse DeSantis of causing the building's collapse, despite there being no known link between any of the governor's actions and the building's deterioration. Some reports have indicated that the condo towers developers were once accused of paying off local officials for permits.

"Let’s hear it for deregulation, folks!" The Intercept journalist Ken Klippenstein wrote on Twitter after calling attention to a "Florida Deregathon" DeSantis promoted in 2019. There is no known link between any of the regulations DeSantis lifted and the building's collapse. 

For DeSantis' defenders, it was just the latest example of "DeSantis Derangement Syndrome." 

There's even a "DeSantis Derangement Syndrome" Twitter account, which documents attacks on the governor, that has nearly 40,000 followers. 

Earlier in June, activists sought to blame DeSantis after a fatal truck crash at a Pride event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While some including Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis were quick to describe the incident as a terrorist attack, it turned out to be an unfortunate accident. Peter Schorsch, the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, appeared to blame DeSantis for the incident because of his anti-riot bill and his recent bills regarding transgender athletes in girls' sports. He later deleted his tweet. 

The hashtag #DeathSantis also trended on Twitter as users falsely linked DeSantis to the accident.  

"As we now know, last night’s tragic incident at the Wilton Manors #Pride parade wasn't domestic terrorism. But the toxic environment created by the laws of a bigot like @GovRonDeSantis [and] the encouragement of Trump’s terror fueled Turd Reich regime [and] #GQP made it entirely plausible," columnist Lesley Abravanel wrote on Twitter on June 20.

Earlier this year, "60 Minutes" delivered a heavily criticized report on DeSantis that implicitly accused the governor of giving Florida grocery store chain Publix lucrative rights to vaccine distribution in exchange for a $100,000 campaign donation. Democrats including Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner pushed back against the report.

"The reporting was not just based on bad information – it was intentionally false," Kerner said in a statement in April. "I know this because I offered to provide my insight into Palm Beach County's vaccination efforts and '60 Minutes' declined. They know that the governor came to Palm Beach County and met with me and the county administrator and we asked to expand the state's partnership with Publix to Palm Beach County."

DeSantis blasted "corporate media operatives" in response to the story.

"They know that they got caught, so they never even addressed that, they just issued these mealy-mouthed statements, but what I would say to ’60 Minutes’ and the American people, they have so much contempt for their viewers to try to gaslight them like this," DeSantis told "Fox & Friends." "You know what, admit that it was false. That's the responsible thing to do."

ROAD TO WHITE HOUSE: DESANTIS TOPS EARLY 2024 STRAW POLL

DeSantis already has two high-profile Democratic opponents ahead of his re-election bid, former Gov. Charlie Crist and current Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. 

Fried has lionized former Florida state health official Rebekah Jones, who used cable news and social media to push accusations that she was pressured by the DeSantis administration to alter the state's coronavirus data, though her claims have largely failed to hold up to scrutiny.

"Thank you Rebekah Jones, for not being afraid to speak out. @GovRonDeSantis and [the Florida Department of Health] will have to answer for this," Fried wrote on Twitter in May 2020.

Jones quickly became a media darling through her criticism of DeSantis, but since then, her claims have come crashing down. A former Democratic official recently accused her of "running a disinformation campaign" and implored the media to stop giving oxygen to her claims. Jones is facing felony cybercrime charges for allegedly hacking a state messaging service, though she has maintained her innocence. She received whistleblower status in late May. 

Other DeSantis opponents pushed unsupported claims – boosted by a heavily-criticized Yahoo News article – that Florida's COVID death toll is actually higher than reported, as a way of criticizing the governor's stance against lockdowns. But even the Washington Post noted that that narrative simply isn't supported by the facts.  

"The fact that corporate media activists make up lies and conspiracy theories to attack Governor DeSantis just shows that they have no real criticisms of his leadership. At the end of the day, the numbers speak for themselves: Florida’s economy is doing better than it was before the pandemic, Florida's COVID death rate is lower than the national average, and about 900 Americans per day move to Florida — the oasis of freedom," Pushaw, the DeSantis press secretary, told Fox News. 

"DeSantis deserves credit for all of this, but because he proved the so-called ‘experts’ wrong, the establishment media set out to destroy him. But these baseless political attacks always backfire, because the facts are on DeSantis’ side. Each new, ridiculous example of DeSantis Derangement Syndrome further diminishes Americans’ trust in the media, which is already at a historic low."

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The governor has also drawn personal attacks from celebrities looking ahead to a potential 2024 campaign. 

"Governor Ron Desantis, please eat s--t. You're one of the worst governors in Florida history and they had Jeb Bush and Nosferatu. We, as a country, cannot handle a more competent Trump. So let’s make sure DeSantis 2024 doesn’t happen," television host Samantha Bee wrote on Twitter on June 23.

"Trump was their Great White Dope. Now they are thinking DeSantis. The Great White Nope," actor George Takei wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

DeSantis' name has repeatedly appeared at or near the top of lists of potential Republicans 2024 presidential nominees. The results of a straw poll of conservative voters earlier in June spotlighted DeSantis' appeal. DeSantis came out on top of a 2024 straw poll at the Western Conservative Summit, narrowly edging former President Donald Trump, according to organizers of the conference.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center left, and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, center right, arrive for a news conference near the scene where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed, Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center left, and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, center right, arrive for a news conference near the scene where a wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed, Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The straw poll at the summit, which was hosted by Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute, asked people attending the gathering both in-person and online to vote for all of the potential 2024 presidential contenders that they approve of – out of 31 choices of both Republicans and Democrats.

DeSantis, a first-term governor and Trump ally who’s become very popular among conservatives nationwide for his resistance to coronavirus lockdowns, scored a 74% approval, followed by the former president at 71%. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 43%, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 39%, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, at 36%, rounded out the top five in the straw poll.

Fox News' Lindsay Kornick, Michael Ruiz, Paul Steinhauser and Brian Flood and the Associated Press contributed to this report.