Is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis being “Trumped”? Is the legacy media trying to undermine DeSantis by pounding him with negative stories, like many feel was done to President Donald Trump? Do they have an agenda?
Many supporters believe DeSantis is being treated unfairly by the media. Those in the media think DeSantis earns his treatment.
Republican Party of Florida Executive Director Helen Aguirre Ferré said in an exclusive interview with The Capitolist, “There seems to be an obvious disconnect between what some members of the media are reporting and reality. Governor DeSantis has been at the forefront of innovative solutions to solving the challenges Florida has been facing as a result of COVID-19.”
She said, “Understanding that cookie-cutter solutions do not work in Florida, Governor DeSantis has resisted the push from the Left for government overreach with lockdowns and the closure of schools and places of worship. This has been a significant measure in upholding constitutional liberties and protecting Florida’s economy. By allowing businesses to operate safely while ensuring Floridians stayed employed, Governor DeSantis is helping alleviate some of the anxiety and stress brought upon by Covid-19. Unfortunately, that rarely gets reported.”
Some say there is a definite media bias against DeSantis and for New York’s Democrat governor Andrew Cuomo. Public affairs consultant and former Republican congressional staffer Drew Holden contrasted in a thread of tweets how legacy media outlets have covered the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by DeSantis and Cuomo.
An article in The Daily Wire said, “The thread demonstrates the media repeatedly criticized DeSantis for his more restrained response to the pandemic, while his Democratic counterpart was frequently lionized. Making the uneven coverage even more ‘egregious,’ Holden argues, is that ‘by the most critical metric, deaths per capita, DeSantis has outperformed Cuomo enormously,’ with New York suffering what Holden labels ‘one of the most disastrous crisis responses in US history.’”
But is it intentional? Is the media consciously trying to vilify DeSantis?
Members of the media say, no, that the governor brings on this treatment with poor communications and an adversarial treatment of the press.
Steve Bousquet in an April editorial in the South Florida Sun Sentinel said that at the beginning of the pandemic DeSantis “stumbled” when he issued a 34-page “safer at home” order that led to “widespread confusion.”
According to Bousquet, DeSantis’ team committed another “communications blunder” when it “blocked the Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas from covering his briefing on the pandemic after she questioned in emails why the governor wasn’t practicing social distancing with reporters. He called DeSantis’ response “petty and clumsy.”
And as far as a comparison to Cuomo, Bousquet said, “As a communicator, DeSantis will never be confused with, say, New York’s Cuomo. His briefings are much longer and feature rambling monologues, but they are very popular with viewers because he balances the awful news of the day with words of hope and humanity, and he has an obvious mastery of the details of managing this crisis.”
The media has accused the governor of being unavailable and sparing with journalists unnecessarily. Yesterday, DeSantis’ response to a CNN reporter’s questions was labeled by some as combative.
Reporter Rosa Flores shouted during a press conference: “Governor, what has gone wrong with the rollout of the vaccine that we’ve seen phone lines jammed, websites crashing.”
DeSantis, responded that there is “a lot of demand,” as the CNN reporter continued to speak over him, trying to get out her rather long-winded question. DeSantis asked if she was asking a question or making a speech.
According to Fox News, DeSantis explained that the coronavirus vaccine was distributed to hospitals and the hospitals decide how to dispense it.
Flores then accused DeSantis of not having a plan to ensure senior citizens don’t have to wait in long lines for the vaccine.
“So the state is not dictating to hospitals… that would be a total disaster,” DeSantis said.
The Fox News story said, “The encounter mirrored dozens of moments over the past few years between President Trump and liberal reporters.”
Part of the problem is a difference in perspective between the governor and the media. The governor prefers a decentralized approach, avoiding micromanaging local hospitals’ roll out of the vaccine or a school’s strategy for educating children during the pandemic. The media sees it as a lack of planning.
This difference in viewpoint is highlighted in a Dec. 3 artilcle in the South Florida Sun Sentinel as critiqued by Dr. Fernando Figueredo, an adjunct faculty member at Florida International University (FIU) teaching masters level courses in Global Affairs and Public Administration. He previously taught at FIU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
In an interview with The Capitolist, he used that article to highlight how a story can be framed to portray a subject in either a positive or negative light based on the viewpoint of the reporter.
The article begins with, “Throughout the COVID-19 crisis in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration engaged in a pattern of spin and concealment that misled the public on the gravest health threat the state has ever faced, a South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation has found.”
“I was floored when I read it,” the professor said, “it’s based completely on their opinion because there’s no facts to that statement.”
He pointed out that later in the story the reporters insinuate that the intent behind DeSantis’ order to 63 county health departments to not make statements about COVID was to “suppress information.”
Figueredo said another plausible explanation for the order was to ensure consistent messaging on the virus from the state department of health, but, he said the reporters chose to spin that point by pushing their theory of DeSantis’ trying to suppress information.
“From the opening sentence on through the rest of the report, it is based on the reporters hand picking specific points of information in order to establish a negative report on DeSantis,” Figueredo said.
Beyond this one article, Figueredo spoke further about media bias, “I won’t say that there is an outright agenda, but the coverage of DeSantis is inconsistent with the facts.”
Figueredo continued, “It is just a fact that he’s done a lot of very positive things — that he’s worked very closely with the schools, that he’s worked very closely with the government leaders at the county level. (DeSantis’) decisions have been based on that and then to blame whatever negative they want to blame on Desantis is just not fair.”
He said this is happening all over the country. “Look at the governor’s in republican states. They are getting hammered by the media and yet when you look at the governors in democrat states, they’re getting Emmy awards. This is crazy.”
He said newspapers and the media have taken an editorial position that is very much anti-republican and for democrats. “When you have the Miami Herald 15 out of 16 times endorsing a democrat for president and the only time they endorsed a republican was when there was a very, very popular second-term republican president (Reagan), it tells you what the editorial position of that newspaper is. There’s no doubt but the media has not been consistent with the positive results that DeSantis has been getting. They’re cherry-picking information to put into the news reports that are just one-sided and not balanced at all.”
Figueredo said there is a trend for reporters to not just report the news but to be activists. He said what’s being taught in journalism school is not necessarily that activist media is the way of the future for reporters, but they are getting that point of view from guest speakers and some faculty members.
Activist journalism may actually be hurting the legacy media, though.
“The media itself is losing credibility in general,” Figueredo said, “Newspapers, in particular, are going out of business and they’ve lost a lot of credibility. People are not subscribed to them anymore and young people are not reading newspapers at all.”
Knight Foundation and Gallup polls found in February 2020, before the Coronavirus lockdown and nationwide protest over the George Floyd death, nearly half of all Americans describe the news media as “very biased.”
Additionally, the study found 73 percent of Americans feel that too much bias in news reports is a major problem, up from 65 percent two years ago.Three in four people (70 percent) worry that owners of media companies are pushing an agenda. They also suspect that inaccuracies in reporting are purposeful, with 52 percent believing that reporters misrepresent the facts, and 28 percent believing reporters make them up entirely.
“That’s a bad thing for democracy,” said John Sands, director of learning and impact at the Knight Foundation in a Chicago Tribune article. “Our concern is that when half of Americans have some sort of doubt about the veracity of the news they consume, it’s going to be impossible for our democracy to function.”