Something really big happened in the Governor’s Office this week, but it appears the Capitol Press Corps is not to be bothered.
Gov. Ron DeSantis tapped Christina Pushaw to be his new Press Secretary. The Capitolist first reported in a glowing write-up of the hire.
“Some people are surprised that I’m a conservative because I’m from one of the bluest areas in the country. But that’s precisely what shaped my views on policy. Growing up in California, I’ve seen firsthand the destruction caused by unfettered progressive control,” Pushaw told The Capitolist in an email. “The contrast between my home state of California and my adopted home state of Florida couldn’t be more dramatic.”
While no one can argue The Capitolist’s conservative bent, the collective silence from the Capitol Press Corps shines a light on its own biases.
As Press Secretary, Pushaw will be the gatekeeper, one Tallahassee reporters must work through to access information. She’ll largely control the DeSantis administration’s narrative and set the tone as DeSantis heads into campaign mode ahead of 2022.
That alone makes her hire significant and newsworthy.
But wait, there’s more.
Pushaw has gained a lot of attention, at least in some circles, for her vocal opposition to Rebekah Jones, the fired Florida Department of Health data manager who has gained stardom, again, at least in some circles, for her pushback against the DeSantis administration and its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Few in the Capitol Press Corps miss an opportunity to retweet Jones or to report on her various claims disputing the state’s COVID-19 data with her own. There are retweets aplenty and outlets jump at the opportunity to report things like Jones being named Forbes’ Technology Person of the Year.
But when a former freelance reporter who released a massive expose debunking Jones’ various claims to fame, Pushaw, nabs a top post in the administration, it’s crickets.
Pushaw, writing for the publication Human Events, published a lengthy blow-by-blow explaining why Jones’ story might be compelling, but it shouldn’t be trusted.
“Jones’ story sounds impressive. There’s just one problem: It’s not true,” she wrote.
Pushaw included the low-hanging fruit — that Jones has a lengthy rap sheet, including the most recent charges from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement alleging she hacked a phone system — but doesn’t focus just on that. Instead, she includes a detailed rundown of DeSantis’ COVID-19 policies and how, contrary to the common media narrative, it hasn’t created the doomsday detractors like Jones predicted.
Just one day after news of Pushaw’s hiring, the DeSantis administration already put out a detailed press release debunking the Jones narrative. The press release largely pulled from a write-up in National Review similarly debunking Jones.
In another National Review post, the conservative outlet called Jones out for a tweet criticizing Pushaw and claiming there was an active criminal investigation against her. While Jones had an incriminating-looking photo of a legal document to back up her claim, it was total bunk. The tweet ignored Maryland legal processes that allowed a criminal complaint to still be listed as pending, even though the underlying request for what amounts to a restraining order was emphatically denied, rendering the complaint that she violated such an order moot. After all, one cannot violate an order that simply doesn’t exist.
Did the Capitol Press Corps bother to report any of that? Nope.
And yet Capitol reporters often lament a lack of access to the Governor’s Office. They complain when he offers news up on a silver platter to more friendly press outfits. Look, we don’t like the Fox News exclusives any more than the rest of the Tallahassee press corps. But when the state media narrative is one constant attack after another against “DeathSantis” and not a single mention of anything that contradicts those arguments, it’s no wonder DeSantis and his team take a hard pass.
And what’s worse, the silence is deafening, and it’s a disservice to the vital role Capitol reporters play in The Process.
None of this is to say reporters should have ignored Jones. Rather, if they’re going to parrot her every sentence and claim, which sometimes border on conspiracy, they should at least include the counter-narrative.
The DeSantis administration is often castigated for its harsh, dare I say Trumpian, rhetoric against the media. And they should be.
But by ignoring legitimate concerns raised about Jones, and a top-level hire of someone who has served as a check on her narrative, the Press Corps is not only feeding DeSantis’ own anti-media narrative, they’re lending it credibility.