Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 2.27.22

Two thumbs up for First Lady Casey DeSantis, but not so much for her husband.

The term “fake news” became popularized because Donald Trump believed he could convince followers they shouldn’t believe any bad story about him.

He even said journalists were “enemies of the people.”

Journalists endured the insults and kept doing their jobs, but millions of Americans believed Trump’s garbage.

Well, guess what, folks? Russian people really are consuming a diet of fake news from their government about the invasion of Ukraine, and it’s designed to keep them in line.

State-controlled Russian media tells the people a different reality from what’s really happening.

The BBC compiled a list of lies presented to readers and viewers as factual news. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said the invasion is righteous to stop the Nazification of Ukraine by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Zelensky is Jewish.

Russian soldiers believed Ukrainians would greet them as liberators, but if that’s so, why are they ducking Molotov cocktails?

Meanwhile, brave journalists from America and other countries are embedded on the front lines of this catastrophe to report what really is happening.

The first rule for dictators is to control the message, no matter what it takes. That’s playing out in real time before the world’s eyes.

Just remember that the next time a certain former President and his supporters talk about fake news and witch hunts. For them, facts are the real enemy, and that’s why a free press matters now more than ever.

Now, let’s get on with our game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention: Matt Gaetz. This is not a misprint.

Devotees of this space know that we usually find a spot for Gaetz on the loser side, but not this time. When he’s right, he’s right — and he was right when he cast the only Republican vote against his party’s push to expand oil drilling, including in the Gulf of Mexico.

“While we should take steps to expand domestic production of energy by reauthorizing the Keystone XL Pipeline and allowing land-based drilling and fracking, this legislation contains a poison pill — and actually helps Russia,” he said.

“It would abolish the moratorium on new oil and gas drilling leases off Florida’s coast. It would harm Northwest Florida’s military mission. (And) it would impair the research, development, testing, and evaluation work that allows our military to maintain a qualitative edge over Russia, China, and the world.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: House and Senate state maps. The Florida Supreme Court, after an automatic review of the proposals, approved new Senate and House maps.

That means they are set for this election cycle, although they could face legal challenges down the road. Latino Justice and the League of Women Voters of Florida said they believe the maps are unconstitutional in committee hearings.

For the first time since that automatic review went into effect in 1968, however, there were no petitions challenging the maps. The justices took that as the green light to cancel oral arguments and base decisions on filings from the House and Senate, so here we are.

Given how contentious these things can be, it’s a minor miracle that this process went as smoothly as it did.

The story is not the same with congressional maps, although lawmakers may be closing in on a finished product.

The biggest winner: Casey DeSantis. Gov. Ron DeSantis shared some great news about his wife, Casey, and it had nothing to do with politics.

“After going through treatment and surgery for breast cancer, she is considered cancer-free,” the Governor said. “All of you who have had thoughts and prayers that have been given to my family and my wife, thank you for doing that.

“It’s lifted her spirits; it’s made a tremendous difference. And for all the women out there who are going through breast cancer right now, you can overcome this. I know it’s very difficult, but my wife is proof positive (that it can be done).”

Meanwhile, Florida Politics reported that a bid by First Lady DeSantis to boost spending on cancer research is on track for approval by House and Senate budget negotiators.

It would increase funding to $100 million (a $37 million increase), but with a small string attached.

Sen. Aaron Bean, the head health care budget writer in the Senate, said the increase is contingent on naming the fund after Casey DeSantis.

Just guessing here, but that doesn’t seem like much of a hurdle.


Dishonorable mention: Alachua County school district. Carlee Simon received national attention when, as the Superintendent of that school district, she required students and staff to wear masks to protect against COVID-19. That defied the no-mask edict from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Her reward: The Alachua School Board fired her.

Board member Mildred Russell, appointed just over six months ago by DeSantis, made the motion to fire Simon without cause. It passed by a 3-2 vote.

At the six-hour Board meeting that ended with Simon’s termination, Simon received praise and criticism from speakers. WUFT reported that some spoke of low teacher morale and Simon’s management style.

“Dr. Simon is a very divisive person,” said Linda Jones, a High Springs City Commissioner. “She does not care about the students, their parents or staff. She only cares that she gets what she wants.”

But University of Florida professor David Kaplan noted the push to fire Simon came “without cause — let’s let that sink in for a moment.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Republican U.S. Senate unity. It may not quite rise to the level of the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, but it might not be wise to invite Mitch McConnell and Rick Scott to the same party.

POLITICO reported on “a significant intraparty rebuke” of Scott by McConnell and other Senate Republicans. They warn that Scott’s ballyhooed 11-point plan to “rescue America” could threaten the GOP’s hopes of retaking the Senate after the midterm elections.

That plan, among other things, calls on everyone — including the poorest Americans — to pay income taxes, even if they don’t reach the minimum level now required to do so.

Scott said it would give those people “skin in the game.”

“We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare after five years,” McConnell said, in a rebuke to Scott’s proporsal. “That will not be part of the Republican Senate majority agenda.”

Scott responded with an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal headlined, “Why I’m Defying Beltway Cowardice.”

This fuels speculation that Scott will challenge McConnell for the Senate Majority Leader position if the GOP regains control. Former President Trump told Scott he should do just that.

The biggest loser: Gov. DeSantis. The Governor’s famously short fuse was on full display Wednesday at what should have been a layup drill at the University of South Florida.

He was at USF to announce a $20 million grant for cybersecurity education; what possibly could go wrong?

Well, he could lash out at seven Middleton High School students on the stage with him. They were wearing masks. So much for the photo op, eh, Governor?

Oh, but DeSantis got the photo op — just not the kind he wanted.

You do not have to wear those masks,” DeSantis brusquely told the students as the cameras rolled. “I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything, and we’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”

Four students took them off, but three left them on.

Boom! Can you say viral video?

By the next morning, WFLA-TV said its video of the moment had millions of views.

The station also quoted parents from two of the students who had harsh words for the Governor.

“I would tell (DeSantis) to stop bullying kids,” Kevin Brown Sr. told the station.

Another parent said she told her son to wear a mask in school.

You know, let parents decide what’s best for their kids, right?

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Tom

    March 6, 2022 at 11:49 am

    Joe, for the record the mask and Covid culture is over. Just saying. The American people are totally done. I’m sure you were outraged by Pelosi allowing mail less state of union.
    The Governor should have toned it down but still got his message across. Society has moved on from Covid besides media and the 5% hanger on Dems. Just saying.

    • Mother Superior Hookshot, Bishop Flamingo Academy for Ascending Girls

      March 6, 2022 at 1:37 pm

      Goodness gracious, Tommy, I didn’t realize the pandemic is a “Covid Culture,” and I do so wish you could have explained that sooner to the 950,000 dead Americans who shared in that “culture” unwillingly.
      In my culture, we respect the highly educated men and women of medical science who have determined that Covid-19 is a virus, not a culture.
      In your culture, the bliss of ignorance is carefully guarded by men like Ron DeSantis. Your bliss even lulls you into thinking you speak for all of us when you say, “The American people are totally done,” and “Society has moved on from Covid,” making it clear you are not only ignorant but delusional, bless your heart.

      • Tom

        March 7, 2022 at 6:44 am

        Sista, mother non superior.
        You have been misbehaving again, please come over to kneel some more. You are known as a great kneeler. You get this way when you don’t have some kneel time, feel free to bring one of the other misbehaving sistas. I’ll straighten you both out!

      • Tom

        March 7, 2022 at 6:51 am

        To be clear, totally over. Full stop.
        Get off it you brainwashed morons.
        You 5% percenters, get the F out of here. It’s over, Fauci is a fraud, just like Nikki fraud, you all are hanging on. Yes the peoples have moved on months ago. America’s Gov led the way. Florida led the way thanks to America’s Gov. The peeps of Florida led the way cause of America’s Gov. America’s Gov is the leader now.
        Get over it.

    • Going Rogue

      March 7, 2022 at 5:30 pm

      Tom is proof that propaganda works. Ronnie D. knows he gots people like him in the palm of his hand. Next time a pandemic hits — and it will — less compliance and willingness to adhere to public health protocols will lead to even more deaths and straining on our already fragile healthcare systems. Bravo, Tom!

  • WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

    March 6, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    A rather sanctimonious article in view of the fact that our national press is equally guilty of presenting lies as factual news. The Tribune is no different. The Trib, and you, are politically biased and have for years allowed that liberal bias to twist, omit, or comment on events in such a manner as to give a meaning that fits your political agenda. Yes, a free press is essential to our democracy. However, freedom of the press was never intended to give license to false or incomplete news or to try to control the minds of its readers. It is intended to inform, nothing more

  • Common Sense

    March 7, 2022 at 8:16 am

    Joe – on the school board firing the Superintendent without cause. Almost every Superintendent firing is “without cause” – statewide. It is how the hiring and firing works for Board-elected superintendents.

    Let that sink in for a moment.

  • Tom

    March 9, 2022 at 5:48 am

    Hey rogue less, please explain to me all the non success the tyrannical blue state Govs had in preventing Covid deaths? How cuomo and whitmer kept seniors in nursing homes, and who died. What about Fauci & Biden having over a million deaths combined. Rogueless, you are the one in the palm of the hand of the corpatists, leftists media and hack scientists. Enjoy!

    Biden’s incompetence has us at nuclear def con 2. The economy is collapsing and we are at war.

Comments are closed.


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