Hours after giving “Fox & Friends” an exclusive interview as he signed a controversial elections bill, Gov. Ron DeSantis is defending the move that itself is developing into a cause célèbre.
Complaints from Democrats and the media began before the event, billed as a rally for “The Best Governor in the USA,” after it became apparent that only Fox News and hundreds of supporters would be allowed in the room as he signed the proposal (SB 90).
During a news conference in Panama City Beach later Thursday, reporters asked the Governor why Fox had the only camera.
“We did a wonderful bill signing for this great elections bill, and it was live on national television on ‘Fox and Friends,'” DeSantis said. “We were happy to give them the exclusive on that, and I think it went really, really well.”
Bill signing ceremonies are frequently held behind closed doors, if there’s a ceremony at all. However, those ceremonies are rarely turned into made-for-TV exclusives.
Some have called it a “secret” bill signing ceremony. WPTV captured the moment DeSantis exited the hotel as reporters and supporters descended on him.
“It was on national TV; it wasn’t secret, guys,” he replied, laughing off questions before walking to his motorcade.
Fox News is broadcast to millions of people nationwide, he noted during the Northwest Florida stop.
“A huge number of people in Florida are watching that,” he added.
Democrats lament the new law as “voter suppression.” Several organizations, including the NAACP and the League of Women Voters, immediately filed lawsuits against the bill.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who on Tuesday launched his campaign to retake the Governor’s Mansion, included the voter suppression rhetoric as part of his campaign hits Thursday morning. Agriculture Commission Nikki Fried, another likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate, called DeSantis an “authoritarian dictator” who likened his use of Fox News to state TV.
“We see this in other locations across the world — China and Venezuela,” she told reporters. “Authoritarian regimes have state-run presses, not here in America.”
By contrast, DeSantis celebrated the opportunity. He was able to use a placard as a visual aid, he noted.
“It was an exciting day to be able to do that,” he said. “It was the first bill signing I’ve ever done live on a national broadcast. It was good.”
The Governor’s Office signed on a new communications director, Taryn Fenske, late last month. The exclusive bill signings could be a new approach the Governor takes as his reelection campaign mounts. With talks about a 2024 presidential bid, giving exclusives to national conservative media could be a strategy that bolsters his national image.