Gov. DeSantis denounces ‘drive by media’ in latest anti-defamation push

Ron DeSantis Truth Defamation Panel
DeSantis doubles down on anti-defamation remarks, but says he hasn't seen the new House bill filed on the subject.

Gov. Ron DeSantis says he hasn’t reviewed HB 991, new legislation from Rep. Alex Andrade that would lower the standards in defamation cases and expose media to new risks. But he was happy nonetheless to weigh in against “hoaxes” and the “drive-by media” in Jacksonville.

Much of his response was rooted in a panel discussion he hosted earlier this month with people who bemoaned the difficulty in pursuing defamation claims due to the 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan Supreme Court case. But he found time to recycle other complaints about his own treatment from outlets like 60 Minutes and in matters like the “book ban hoax.”

“Because of some of the background case law that developed 60 years ago, you have a situation where you’ve got a lot of drive-by media. So they will basically smear somebody, put it out there, and then you will debunk it like the next day or whatever. But it’s kind of already gotten out there and there’s no recourse effectively if you lie about somebody,” DeSantis complained.

“The government should not be involved in this regulating because you can’t regulate speech, but private parties being able to go and say, ‘Wait a minute, you know, this was a false statement, you were reckless or even negligent,'” DeSantis added, “we don’t have enough of that where there’s any of accountability. So that’s the issue we raised.”

DeSantis had previously said “disfavored” people were targeted with media smears, and he amplified those remarks in Jacksonville Thursday.

“Usually the people (who) get targeted are people that are right-of-center by some of the entrenched media entities, and they can kind of do it. And these folks don’t necessarily have adequate recourse, it’s a difficult thing to do that will stick in the courts. But I do think the courts have recognized, in the ’60s when they did this, it was a much different time,” DeSantis said.

“The media ecosystem was way, way different than it is now. And so it was not grounded in the text, history or structure of the Constitution,” he continued, saying the currently strict guardrails against defamation claims weren’t “mandated, really.”

“It was a policy choice that the courts made, which they really don’t have the authority to do that. But how does that policy hold up now in this fragmented media ecosystem? And so they’re working on doing things. I have not done or submitted anything personally and I haven’t reviewed anything personally,” DeSantis said of the proposed bill.

The Andrade measure could be considered wish list legislation. It lowers the threshold for defamation actions to any one “publication, exhibition or utterance” of a false claim, allowing plaintiffs to file an action in any Florida county where the questionable material was accessed.

It does not allow an “unverified anonymous report” to suffice as proof of a claim. And it contends any allegation of discrimination is de facto defamatory, setting up a statutory floor of $35,000 in damages for a prevailing plaintiff.

Furthermore, the Andrade bill establishes grounds for state-level defamation actions by public figures, as long as the specific grievance “does not relate to the reason for (their) public status.” Provisions of the bill are severable, meaning that just because one is ruled unconstitutional, the rest would stand.

In his remarks Thursday, the Governor also blasted MSNBC after its commentator Andrea Mitchell said he “doesn’t want students to learn about slavery and its aftermath.” The Governor responded that it’s not prohibited but “required” by Florida law to teach those things. Mitchell eventually walked back the claim.

DeSantis also re-litigated his position that state guidance led to a so-called “book ban hoax,” by way of offering another indictment of the media in 2023 and “media lies” that have been cataloged.

“It’s one thing for a stooge who’s a partisan apparatchik that may be in, like, a teacher union to try to do this. But to have corporate media not immediately shoot that down, because all you have to do is look up our standards, very easy to do. And so it’s really just a reckless disregard for what the truth actually is,” DeSantis asserted.

“The good news about it is, I think because of the lack of guardrails on some of this stuff, in terms of being able to do private suits, the standard has gotten lower and lower. The preparation has gotten worse. Fact-checking has gotten worse. All that stuff,” DeSantis added.

“But what it’s done is it’s created a situation where the vast majority of the people know that this is an agenda that’s trying to be imposed on them. They know these are narratives, and so they don’t typically believe it anymore. And I think that a lot of those outlets only have themselves to blame.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


5 comments

  • tom palmer

    February 23, 2023 at 12:27 pm

    It would be great if Gov. DeSantis devoted as much of his time to governing as he does to whining.
    To claim that the court system has no business weighing on legal disputes over libel cases is absurd.
    What is lacking in most of this discussion are specific examples of media reports that allegedly defamed any public official. Be clear on this. Criticism and defamation are not synonyms. Truth and fair comment have always been solid defenses.
    And, yes, some stupid stuff is sometimes printed or aired, but whether it meets the standard for a defamation suit is a different story.

    • bill bob

      February 23, 2023 at 4:50 pm

      lmfao what you say doesnt reflect the majority opinion of floridians. this IS an issue. has been an issue since Bush senior that we, the majority, have been complaining about.. look at who OWNS the media.. the MEDIA needs to be constrained, NOT the people. because as it sits, the PEOPLE are punished for free speech while the MEDIA violates actual rights. corporations who donate money to politicians for political favors do not deserve the rights of free people.

  • bill bob

    February 23, 2023 at 4:50 pm

    lmfao what you say doesnt reflect the majority opinion of floridians. this IS an issue. has been an issue since Bush senior that we, the majority, have been complaining about.. look at who OWNS the media.. the MEDIA needs to be constrained, NOT the people. because as it sits, the PEOPLE are punished for free speech while the MEDIA violates actual rights. corporations who donate money to politicians for political favors do not deserve the rights of free people.

    if this were a democratic governor, youd be supporting this.

  • Tjb

    February 23, 2023 at 5:13 pm

    Would DeSantis’s mouthpiece, Christina Pushaw be held to the same standards as the so called liberal press regarding defamation and false statements? Also, should we be including Fox News in this discussion. I am sure they will supporting you Ron, hopefully without lies.

    • Dems are ALL groomers

      February 23, 2023 at 5:52 pm

      Christina never says anything that isn’t true. I know it. You know it. Your retardedmother even knows it.

Comments are closed.


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