DeSantis Rises in Popularity Despite Media Attacks: ‘You Can Try to Smear Me’

By Lydia Nusbaum, Florida's Voice

June 21, 2022 Updated 1:51 PM ET

Governor-elect Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at the 2018 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida (Gage Skidmore).
Governor-elect Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at the 2018 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida (Gage Skidmore).

June 21, 2022  Updated 1:33 P.M. ET

TALLAHASSEE (FLV) – “We don’t care what you think anymore,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said as he took another stab at news outlets during a West Palm Beach press conference June 8th.

The remark is in line with the DeSantis Administration’s disinterest in pandering to “legacy media” outlets. 

“We know you; you peddle narratives. We know you lie. We know you don’t care about the facts. And so you can try to smear me or anyone in my administration,” DeSantis said.

“All that’s gonna do is embolden us to continue moving forward for the people of Florida.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis faced relentless attacks since taking office in 2019. Those attacks ramped up when the Governor went against the grain to keep Florida open during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Of course, as his profile and reputation have grown – particularly since 2020, when his policies in Florida set an example for the nation in standing up to Faucism and covid hysteria – Governor DeSantis has been targeted more and more by a corporate media that is terrified of him,” Governor Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said. 

While the Governor did briefly lockdown the state, he reversed course quickly to send a “freedom” message to Floridians despite pushback from the CDC and national health experts. Throughout it all, the administration has come head to head with false news reports.

One of the largest misinformation stories included Rebekah Jones, a former Florida Department of Health employee who claimed she was asked to falsify COVID positivity rates among other claims. 

The story was picked up by national media outlets as the DeSantis administration fought to combat the false stories.

However, Jones’ claims were “unsubstantiated” and health officials accused of wrongdoing were also “exonerated” in a new report released many months later. But the damage was done as the false stories created some distrust with the Governor’s handling of the pandemic.

Fired FL Health Dept. Employee Rebekah Jones Made ‘Unsubstantiated’ Claims of Scrubbing COVID Data, Health Officials ‘Exonerated’

The DeSantis Administration battled misinformation with the Parental Rights in Education Act which prevents teachers from talking to K-3rd graders about gender identity. Democratic activists dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” and media outlets across the world ran with the made-up phrase.

Governor DeSantis would take matters into his own hands to set the record straight at press conferences, as seen in an exchange between him and a reporter:

Reporter: “I want to ask you about the Parental Rights in Education, what critics call the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill.’ It’s on the Senate floor.

DeSantis: “Does it say that in the bill?

Reporter: “Do you support…

DeSantis: “Does it say that in the bill?

Reporter: “I’m asking you…

DeSantis: “I’m asking you to tell me what’s in the bill because you are pushing false narratives. It doesn’t matter what critics say.”

Despite negative news from the press, Florida’s economy is booming and people are moving to the Sunshine state. The Governor holds multiple press conferences during the week where he does not let a moment slip to applaud his policies during the pandemic as the reason why Florida is growing quickly.

Florida Economy Under DeSantis Adds Jobs at Over 2x Rate of U.S., Nearly Half International Tourism

“Governor DeSantis is his own best messenger,” Pushaw said. “His bold policies and decisions speak for themselves.”

DeSantis’ approval ratings have risen into the mid-50s. His war chest has $112 million on-hand cash. His name as been thrown into the hat as a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2024.

Senate President Wilton Simpson believes the Governor’s rise to popularity is due to his focus on facts.

“He’s worked very hard at exposing the liberal media on their tactics and people who can judge for themselves,” Simpson said. “Clearly we’re seeing that it’s working out really well for the governor and the people of Florida.”

While Florida Republicans have passed controversial legislation, Simpson said the Governor has helped show lawmakers how to fight for their proposals in the public square.

“The liberal media slants everything in a very bad direction. The Governor standing up and leading has been very helpful,” Simpson said. “I think that Governor DeSantis has been a great example to us on, you know, just stand up and fight that fight.”

Rep. Joe Harding, R-Williston, sponsored the Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by Democrats.

“It’s helpful when you have someone like him who can pierce through a little bit of that ridiculous slanted coverage that the media has and reach directly to the average Floridian and the average American,” Harding said. 

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, said the constant media “attacks” on Governor DeSantis helped make him so popular.

“I think they make it easy for him, because they’re so biased. And their commentary is generally just so ridiculous,” Fine said. “They don’t seem to understand that they’re his biggest asset. But every time they attack him, he improves.”

“And so if they were smart, they wouldn’t do this. I think they help. They don’t hurt him.”

The Governor has given his press team the freedom to be “outspoken” on social media and call out “false” narratives the media and other organizations create.

Just recently, media outlets spread “lies” that Florida’s Governor had “reversed course” after originally banning doctors offices from ordering COVID vaccines for kids under 5 years old. 

Florida never prohibited healthcare facilities from ordering, the state just was not going to administer the program.

DeSantis Admin Urges Media to Fix ‘False’ Reports Claiming Florida ‘Reversed Course’ With Vaccines

“We have never held the position that the state would prohibit healthcare providers from ordering the vaccine,’” said Governor Deputy Press Secretary Bryan Griffin in a statement to all media outlets.

Former DeSantis communications director, former reporter, and current Republican party of Florida Executive Director Helen Aguirre Ferré said it is plain to see the media’s “one-sided” and “dishonest” stories.

“The corporate media and media activists constantly attack Gov. DeSantis and as he doesn’t give a blip about what they think because he is right and they are wrong,” Ferré said.

Both Wilton Simpson and Christina Pushaw went back in time to former President Donald Trump who laid the groundwork for calling media outlets “fake news.”

“Our use of social media to communicate directly with the public and expose journalistic malpractice is innovative, and we all appreciate how President Trump changed the game for conservatives in terms of using social media to get his message directly to the public and embracing confrontations with the biased ‘fake news,’” Pushaw said. 

While the Governor’s staff works nonstop to “debunk false narratives” and provide Floridians with information, Pushaw said no amount of communications skill can compensate for bad policies.

“This is because the American people can feel the effects of Biden’s disastrous policies, and no amount of ‘spin’ in the media or from White House communications staff can offset people’s everyday experiences (like paying $5-6 a gallon for gas!)” Pushaw said.

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Florida’s Voice is a patriotic news network that you can trust to deliver the truth with no hidden agenda. Founder and Editor in Chief Brendon Leslie left his job in mainstream news to practice journalism as it should be, unbiased and unbossed.

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