Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried found a friendly forum Tuesday to vent about Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ approach to pandemic management. And during a cable-news hit, she felt emboldened to say she’s actually doing the chief executive’s job already.
“You know, I am running for Governor of the state of Florida, but I never expected to start the job now,” Fried quipped on MSNBC’s “Katy Tur Reports.” “I certainly expected to start the job in 2023, but we’re doing the Governor’s job for him because he’s been absent from our state, leaving the people out here very vulnerable.”
The comments came amid accusations of “no messaging” and a “void of leadership” from the Governor’s Office as part of extended comments on the same theme.
“You know what I think the problem is?” Fried asked. “At the front end of the pandemic, when vaccines came out, we targeted seniors, but since then, we’ve had no messaging here in the state of Florida from this Governor about going out and getting vaccines.”
She continued to frame her COVID-19 briefings as responding to the “void of leadership here in this state.”
“We have taken that mantle here in the last week and a half and had daily reporting numbers when they were available from the CDC,” Fried noted. “But we are still lagging behind on information for the people.”
She added: “Until the time this Governor steps up to the plate and does right by the people of our state and tell them how severe it is, encouraging people to in fact go get the vaccine, please mask up, listen to the scientists and the experts.”
However, while Fried urges viewers to “mask up,” she aligns with DeSantis on one issue.
“I don’t support a mask mandate for the entire state,” Fried asserted when pressed on the question toward the end of her segment. It was a similar position she took less than 24 hours before on the same network.
Expect Fried to continue contrasting her stances on virus mitigation to DeSantis. For at least as long as Florida is the crux of the pandemic, national media will notice.
Fried has gotten roughly a million dollars in earned media for her campaign for his office since beginning her virus briefings last week.
DeSantis, despite Fried’s claims, has not been absent from the state. He messaged on coronavirus as recently as Tuesday, when he defended the unvaccinated against claims that they present the bulk of serious cases.
“I’m sick of the judgmental stuff on some of this stuff,” DeSantis said. “Nobody’s trying to get ill here, OK? There’s people that were hermits for a year and a half, that wore six masks and did that and still contracted it, OK? So let’s just be real here, and let’s not indulge these things that somehow it’s their fault for not doing it.”
Meanwhile, the figures grow grimmer, with Florida’s record-setting number of hospitalizations as of Tuesday.