After speaker spreads disinformation, Gov. DeSantis stands by vaccines, but offers no correction
Darris Friend speaks at podium beside Ron DeSantis. Screenshot via Florida Channel.

Darris Friend and Ron DeSantis
A Gainesville worker said vaccines alter your RNA. They don't.

After a speaker at a Gov. Ron DeSantis-headlined event made a false statement about vaccines, the Governor’s Office stressed his own support for shots. But nobody corrected the information at the event.

The controversial remarks came during a press conference in Gainesville where DeSantis threatened to fine local governments for imposing vaccine mandates.

At the event, Darris Friend, an employee at Gainesville Regional Utilities, spoke about his reasons for refusing a vaccine.

“The vaccine changes your RNA, so for me, that’s a problem,” Friend said.

That’s not true. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes clear, vaccines do not change an individuals’ core genetic material because they do not interact with the nucleus of body cells. The confusion seems to be around messenger RNA vaccines, including the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Those trigger creation of a protein that produces antibodies to protect individuals from the virus if it enters the system.

While mRNA vaccines are relatively new, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a traditional vaccine, not mRNA.

Several public officials stood alongside Farris as the statement was made, including DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody. While DeSantis visibly grimaced as Friend made his statement about vaccines changing RNA, nothing was ever corrected on the record.

DeSantis at the event stressed his support for employees pushing back against vaccine mandates. He introduced Friend as an employee eligible for retirement in a year and a half.

“Now he’s facing termination,” DeSantis said. “He could lose his pension, but believes that this is a matter of principle.”

Critics pounced.

“Moments ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis let someone stand behind the Seal of Florida and say: ‘The vaccine changes your RNA.’ It does not. No corrections. No shame,” tweeted Kevin Cate, a consultant for Democrat Nikki Fried’s campaign for Governor.

When asked by Florida Politics about Friend’s statement, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw stressed the Governor remains a supporter of vaccinations.

“Governor DeSantis has consistently said that vaccines work to prevent serious illness. They should be available for all and mandated for none. This position has not changed,” Pushaw said.

“The speaker whose remarks included that comment was at the press conference as a member of a lawsuit against the city’s extreme government overreach.”

Still, even in her post-press conference clarification, Pushaw did not correct Friend’s comment.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


  • Alex

    September 13, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    DeAnus knows his entire covid vaccine/mask freedumb stance is a lie, and he knows people are dying because of it.

    But he can’t tell the truth, because the Trump Cult idiots wouldn’t vote for him.

    Which means he’s a flaming piece of immoral white trash.

  • PeterH

    September 13, 2021 at 5:12 pm


    In my lifetime….. I’ve never witnessed so many ignorant incompetent purveyors of blatantly outright fake news. There is absolutely no chance the Republican Party can be changed from within.

    There is ONLY one possible remedy. Real educated competent conservatives need to abandon what is left of today’s Republican Party. The GQP and EVERYTHING Trump….. needs to be destroyed. Join fellow thinking conservatives at the Lincoln Project or another “never Trump” organization.

    • Melinda J

      September 15, 2021 at 9:33 am

      Let’s start with schools! Imagine if the US gave all kids the same level of education action…what a nation we become. Instead, we decide that the rich neighborhoods (which borders constantly redrawn, sort of like the gerrymandering in voting) should get more money and supplies pumped into the schools. What if we gave all kids the SAME LEVEL of education? Thereby making all children, regardless of where they live, how much there parents make, or race/creed/culture have the same chance at life. We wouldn’t we decades behind China and India.

      For some reason, the Trump worshippers and his ring of demons (in whom they worship as well), don’t actually care about the country. They claim they do, they claim to be proud American and blah blah blah. They are not though, they are the opposite. They do not believe in the constitution, they have no respect for gov’t, and because they are so pathetic and worried they are going to lose (God willing they do for many, many, many years to come) that they have to chest to get ahead. It’s sad, pathetic, and incredibly UNAMERICAN.

      • Melinda J

        September 15, 2021 at 9:34 am

        Whoops, sorry I sent that without editing it first. My apologies.

      • PeterH

        September 15, 2021 at 9:44 am

        Totally agree Melinda. Quality education for all children is paramount!

  • Alex

    September 13, 2021 at 5:45 pm

  • Aimee Hall

    September 13, 2021 at 6:12 pm

    Here are 7 at-home jobs that pay at least $100/day. And there’s quite the variety too! Some of these work-at-home jobs are more specialized, others are jobs that anyone can do. They all pay at least $3000/month, but some pay as much as $10,000.

  • Julie

    September 13, 2021 at 8:31 pm

    As usual this person doesn’t know what they are talking about medically. The core genetic material is DNA, this person said it changes RNA, he did not say it changes the DNA. One function of RNA is To directs synthesis of proteins on the ribosomes, in the vaccine case- telling your cells to make the protein (spiky) in order to prompt an immune response. The vaccine has its own RNA to do that, therefore your own RNA for those cells is replaced with the vaccine RNA

    • Kerry A. Brown

      September 14, 2021 at 10:28 am

      According to scientists at WHO and the CDC, vaccines do not replace RNA.
      Your nonsensical logic is 100% wrong.
      Please stop spreading dangerous false information.

Comments are closed.


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