Gov. Ron DeSantis continued his full-bore attack on The Associated Press Monday evening during Fox News’ Hannity.
On Fox News for the first time since last week, DeSantis was given a wide berth to blast the wire service, the latest in a series of corporate media attacks.
DeSantis said the article in question was “clearly a partisan hit piece,” a “bizarre theory to boost Regeneron’s stock price,” and an example of the wire service “trying to create a false narrative.”
“The AP knew what they were doing. They wanted to do a political hit on me,” DeSantis said. “They had the temerity to act like they were the victim when they got called out on their hit piece.”
“The days of corporate media being able to smear people with impunity and conservatives do nothing; those days are over. In Florida, we’re fighting back with the truth, and we’re going to hold you accountable when you’re peddling false partisan narratives,” DeSantis told host Sean Hannity.
The cable hit follows a letter to the wire service DeSantis sent earlier in the day.
“You succeeded in publishing a misleading, clickbait headline about one of your political opponents, but at the expense of deterring individuals infected with COVID from seeking lifesaving treatment, which will cost lives,” said the letter to the AP, which first went to national conservative outlets, then to the press at large. “Was it worth it?”
“This is what happens when you decide on the headline and narrative before you begin reporting,” DeSantis said. “The corporate media’s ‘clicks-first-facts-later’ approach to journalism is harming our country.”
DeSantis wrote the letter after the news wire reported his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, was suspended from Twitter for “abusive behavior,” which (it says) led to threats against reporter Brendan Farrington. Twitter locked her account for 12 hours beginning Friday night, but specific details have proved elusive.
The suspension came after Pushaw encouraged her nearly 22,000 followers to make their feelings known to Farrington, who wrote a story Tuesday about a top DeSantis donor’s link to a hedge fund invested in COVID-19 treatment Regeneron.
The fund’s investment in Regeneron is incidental in the scope of its holdings, and DeSantis has noted that the company’s monoclonal antibodies treatment being used has already been paid for by the federal government, and the use of the treatment does not benefit his donor.
Pushaw responded to the story with a flood of tweets aimed at Farrington, his editor, and the AP over the few days following its publication. In a since-deleted tweet, she told her followers: “Drag them.” Farrington, the morning after the story went live, tweeted that he had received death threats.
Despite the pushback, the AP stands by the story. Incoming AP CEO Daisy Veerasingham sent a letter Friday to DeSantis protesting Pushaw’s tweets.
DeSantis should “assure the people of Florida that there is no place” for such behavior in their government, Veerasingham, AP’s vice president and chief operating officer, wrote. She will become AP’s CEO in January.
“While we can disagree about stories,” Veerasingham wrote, “it is unacceptable and dangerous for a public official to encourage the systemic bullying of journalists.”
While it is unusual for the official side to push back on a campaign finance story — much less one that led to social media suspensions — the move is bolstering Pushaw and DeSantis in the eyes of conservative media and commentators.
Once again, it demonstrates significant gaps in expectations between the largely centrist Tallahassee media and national right-wing press outlets.
Though the Governor’s Office and DeSantis deemed this particular fundraising story out of bounds, his aggressive fundraising for his Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee is a matter of record. The account had roughly $48 million on hand at the end of July, a month it raised over $4.2 million.
Florida Politics’ Capitol reporter Renzo Downey contributed to this post.