Monkeypox is the latest subject about which Gov. Ron DeSantis and his potential General Election challengers strongly disagree.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist took issue Wednesday with comments made by DeSantis and Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo about the disease and what he described as an “AIDS comparison” from the Governor that projected a lack of seriousness in the face of a public health threat.
“Gov. DeSantis should not dismiss the risks of monkeypox to Floridians, and to do so while making an AIDS comparison is repulsive, revealing and factually wrong,” Crist asserted.
At a press conference in Brevard County Wednesday, DeSantis drew parallels between monkeypox and the AIDS epidemic.
“We are not going to be like (Dr. Anthony) Fauci in the ’80s, claiming that families could get AIDS by sitting and watching TV together,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Rockledge, where he and state health officials were touting the expansion of opioid treatment and discussing the news of the day.
After asking the Governor’s Office for clarification of DeSantis’ reference after his remarks, the press shop sent a link to a long-form 1983 interview with Fauci where he said the “full extent of transmissibility” of the disease was not known. That interview was conducted early in the AIDS epidemic, at a time of grave misunderstanding of the disease and little governmental sympathy or recourse for its victims.
Crist drew parallels between the disengaged response of the Ronald Reagan White House to the epidemic with that emanating from the current administration in Tallahassee about monkeypox, a disease that has 500 diagnosed cases in the state thus far.
“At the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, when the federal government had an opportunity to contain HIV with an honest public approach, it was numbed into apathy and inaction by homophobia. Millions died as a result,” Crist said.
“If Ron hears echoes of AIDS, it’s because his government is failing Floridians again. DeSantis and his quack Surgeon General need to wake up and get at-risk Floridians access to the testing, vaccines, and treatment they need to address and contain this viral outbreak.”
FP reached out to the Governor’s press team for a response to Crist’s claims, but has not received a reply.
Crist offered policy recommendations in his statement, noting that while “Florida has a window of opportunity to contain this viral outbreak, largely attacking men who have sex with men,” that window could close.
“However, like all viruses, monkeypox will not stay where it started. Without government leadership and intervention, it will continue to spread across our state, impacting everyone,” Crist predicted.
DeSantis spoke at length earlier Wednesday about the need to not succumb to “fear,” in comments reminiscent of previous remarks from the Governor during various COVID-19 surges.
“You see any of these politicians out there trying to scare you about this, do not listen to their nonsense. I am so sick of politicians — and we saw this with COVID — trying to sow fear into the population,” DeSantis said in Brevard County.
DeSantis vowed anything the state does “from a public health perspective” will be rooted in “facts” and not “fear.”
Surgeon General Ladapo echoed DeSantis’ “complete answer” and suggested that “headlines” are “trying to make you afraid of monkeypox or fill-in-the-blank.”
Crist is not the only major Democratic gubernatorial candidate demanding more from DeSantis on monkeypox. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried urged a state of emergency from the DeSantis administration, a proposal that won’t be entertained.
DeSantis asserted Wednesday that states of emergency allow governments to “abuse those emergency powers to curtail your freedom.”