The world’s largest digital journalism association reprimanded Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday after he provided exclusive access to Fox News at an official bill signing event in Florida.
The closed-door event angered dozens of national and local news outlets who remained locked out of the May 6 ceremony. In a letter published by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), Executive Director Dan Shelley described the decision as “exclusionary” and “ill-advised.”
“As you know better than most, journalists have a First Amendment-enshrined obligation to serve the public by seeking and reporting the truth,” Shelly wrote. “That obligation includes journalists being able to attend official government activities, and to ask questions of public officials.”
Notably, DeSantis justified the exclusive bill-signing ceremony as a campaign event. Shelley, however, asserted the classification is questionable.
“As I also know you are aware, most government activities — such as bill-signing ceremonies — constitute official business of the Office of the Governor and are not generally designated as campaign events,” Shelley wrote.
Shelley further suggested the exclusive was a disservice to Floridians. More than 100 news outlets are represented in the letter.
“Obviously, not all Floridians watch Fox News Channel. In fact, a majority of citizens get their news from local broadcast, digital and print news outlets. It is critical that the public be allowed to monitor official state government business through the auspices of the local news outlets they prefer to watch or read,” he added.
In the end, Fox News was granted exclusive access as the Republican Governor signed into law a bill (SB 90) that would tighten voter laws in Florida.
The proposal was among the most controversially bills of the 2021 Legislative Session.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried blasted DeSantis for excluding media and described FOX News as a “state news source.”
“He is using Fox News as a state news source,” Fried told reporters in the Capitol after the bill signing. “We see this in other locations across the world — China, Venezuela.”
DeSantis is a frequent guest on the right-leaning cable news outlet. He appeared on or was mentioned by the outlet more than 500 times for a six-week period starting in March, POLITICO Florida reported.
After the ceremony, Fox News provided a statement to Business Insider suggesting it had nothing to do with the decision.
“FOX & Friends did not request or mandate that the May 6 event and/or interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis be exclusive to FOX News Media entities,” a Fox News spokesperson said in the statement.