Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has lit into AP over a “partisan smear piece” about his promotion of a Covid-19 treatment endorsed by the White House, and the agency’s complaints of ‘harassment’ when his staff pushed back on it.
“I assumed your letter was to notify me that you were issuing a retraction of the partisan smear piece you published last week. Instead, you had the temerity to complain about the deserved blowback that your botched and discredited attempt to concoct a political narrative has received,” DeSantis wrote in a letter to the agency, which he made public on Monday.
The Republican governor described the AP story, published on August 17, as a “baseless conspiracy theory” with an “inflammatory headline” that might cause some Floridians to decline life-saving treatment, even though “the public's trust in corporate outlets like the AP is at historic lows.”
This is what happens when you decide on the headline and narrative before you begin reporting. The corporate media’s “clicks-first, facts-later” approach to journalism is harming our country.
“Was it worth it?” DeSantis asked at the end.
The AP article revolved around Democrat outrage that DeSantis was promoting Regeneron – a monoclonal antibody treatment for Covid-19 – because the CEO of a hedge fund that has a financial interest in its maker has donated to the governor’s campaign.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been criticized for opposing mask mandates, is now touting a COVID-19 antibody treatment in which a top donor's company has invested millions of dollars. DeSantis has been promoting the treatment as virus cases spike. https://t.co/0TwgYlONVh— The Associated Press (@AP) August 18, 2021
The trouble with that narrative is that the treatment has also been endorsed by health experts and even the current administration. In a press conference on August 12 – days before the AP story – the White House “racial equity in health” adviser Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith said that the Biden administration had deployed “surge teams” to promote the drug in hard-hit US states.
The AP story even noted that experts agreed with DeSantis and that Regeneron has been “shown to cut rates of hospitalization and death by roughly 70%” if given within 10 days of initial symptoms. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who tested positive for the virus after being fully vaccinated on the same day the DeSantis hit-piece came out, said he was taking the drug and has since recovered.
When DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw tweeted about the “baseless” headline and called out both the writer and his editors, AP complained to Twitter that their reporter was being subjected to “harassment” and “bullying.” Pushaw’s account was locked for 12 hours.
“You cannot recklessly smear your political opponents and then expect to be immune from criticism,” DeSantis told AP, adding that he stood by his staff and their work.
News outlets like AP whining that their reporters are being "harassed" due to critics are going to have to explain how it's possible to criticize them without being guilty of "bullying," because right now this just seems like a cynical tool to place them off limits from critique. https://t.co/snXlefAywX— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 23, 2021
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has written previously about the phenomenon of corporate outlets labeling any criticism as bullying, commented that AP’s “whining” is part of a trend that “just seems like a cynical tool to place them off limits from critique.”
DeSantis and Abbott, both Republicans, have found themselves in the crosshairs of corporate media outlets over their opposition to lockdowns as well as to mask and vaccine mandates – though both have promoted voluntary vaccinations, and DeSantis has prioritized the elderly, as the highest-risk population. The White House has singled them out as “standing in the way” of its Covid-19 policies.
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DeSantis has openly rejected the lockdown strategy as “Faucism” – after Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and a corporate media darling – and publicly stated his opposition to Florida becoming a “biomedical security state” and mandating vaccine passports like New York City.
Shortly after making the AP letter public, DeSantis announced that two more monoclonal antibody treatment centers will be opening in Alachua and St. Lucie counties on Tuesday, with the capacity of treating 300 patients per day, seven days a week. They join similar sites in 14 other counties across Florida.
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