Today, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis fired off a scathing response to a letter last week from the Associated Press urging the governor to end staff’s “harassing behavior” aimed at an Associated Press (AP) reporter on Twitter.
DeSantis wrote a response letter (posted at bottom of story) to Daisy Veerasingham, AP’s vice president and chief operating officer who will become AP’s CEO in January, saying he assumed when he received a letter from her that she was retracting the story he called a “smear piece” 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,” he wrote. “This ploy will not work to divert attention from the fact that the Associated Press published a false narrative that will lead some to decline effective treatment for COVID infections.”
The governor was referring to a August 18 AP story titled, “DeSantis top donor invest in COVID drug governor promotes.” The story drew the attention of the governor’s press secretary Christina Pushaw who said on Twitter, she immediately reached out to the reporter to discuss the story and particularly the headline which she said was misleading. According to Pushaw the AP would not budge on the story, leading her to vehemently attack the story as a hit piece on the governor.
In a since-deleted tweet, Pushaw retweeted the article with the message “drag them,” which reportedly led to abusive messages being sent to the reporter.
“Another one of her tweets threatened that if the journalist did not change the story to her liking, she would ‘put you on blast.’ She gave a deadline to meet her demand,” the Veerashingham letter reads. “She also retweeted someone’s call to ‘Light. Them. Up,’ referring to the AP.”
Pushaw reportedly deleted some of the tweets, but continued to call the AP out for what she called a political “hit piece.”
Veerashingham wrote that DeSantis should “assure the people of Florida that there is no place” for such behavior in their government.
Pushaw and the governor said the headline and the framing of the story was to smear DeSantis by insinuating his push to expand awareness of monoclonal antibody treatments was done to boost Regeneron’s profit, rather that to publicize a treatment few Floridians were aware of and which was proven effective in treating patients with COVID when given early after diagnosis of the virus.
DeSantis called the story a “baseless conspiracy theory.”
He wrote, “There is no doubt that some will decline to seek life-saving treatment as a result of the AP’s inflammatory headline.”
He went further saying the AP’s “false narrative” “jeopardized the health of those who could otherwise benefit from treatment with monoclonal antibodies.”
In his letter he said he stood by the work of his staff who he said went out of their way to provide the AP with what he called the factual information necessary to dispel the AP’s narrative.
He said the “clicks-first, facts-later” approach to journalism is harming the country and that their “conspiracy theory” backfired as it was “easily debunked.”
“You succeeded in publishing a misleading, clickbait headline about one of your political opponents, but at the expense of deterring individuals infected with COVID from seeking life-saving treatment, which will cost lives. Was it worth it?” he concluded.
Here’s the full letter: