Governor blasts Associated Press over “hit piece,” supports staff’s defense

by | Aug 23, 2021

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:




  1. Marla NeverTrump AlwaysConservative Hughes (@MarlaMHughes)

    Good recap except you neglected to detail exactly what was wrong with the AP story and why the governor and his spokesperson demanded a correction.
    The headline and slant of the piece was intended to be understood as DeSantis having a profit motive behind his push for people to recieve the new treatments. However, POTUS Biden and Secretary Nikki Fried as well as the doctors in the forum DeSantis assembled in Jacksonville all support the use of the treatment. And, in fact, POTUS Biden’s campaign received donations similar to DeSantis. Revealing those facts would have made the article unbiased but it would have also made it unnewsworthy and removed the click bait hit piece attraction.

  2. Bruce S

    This is the second piece on this story; Brian Burgess wrote an apologist response in “The Wrap” on Aug. 20. Yet you did not publish the AP complaint letter in either piece, only DeSantis’s response. Indeed, the story was reaching and silly, but Pushaw’s response was far over the top, using her government position to call for public retribution against a reporter however the public wants to interpret her message. That has become the BIG story. It was unconscionable and she should have been summarily fired. Instead, DeSantis doubles-down, trying desperately to play the victim while ignoring the inexcusable actions of his press secretary. If you print the AP complaint letter, maybe your readers can judge for themselves what is happening. If you would like a copy, I can provide one. The bias with which this has been handled mocks any claim The Capitolist has for any journalistic integrity. Karen Murphy should know better than to be a party to this.

    • Karen Murphy

      There’s a link to the AP letter in the story.

    • Karen Murphy

      There is a link to the AP lett in the story.

      • Bruce S

        That isn’t publishing the letter and all of its accusations as you did for the DeSantis response. Hardly even-handed. Apart from from two brief mentions of the AP’s accusations, the entire account is weighted to the Gov’s pathetic response. As a journalist, do you think that it is anywhere near appropriate for a govt press secretary to call for retribution from followers against a reporter for their publication of a piece that the govt didn’t like? If the shoe was on the other (left) foot, it would the lead story for The Capitolist – justifiably – on the govt seeking repress and intimidate journalists.

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