As DeSantis ramps up his war on the press, certain local right-wing media outlets enjoy access to the governor’s administration that the rest of the media does not.
One undisputable fact about Gov. Ron DeSantis is that the Florida Republican does not generally grant access to long-standing state newspapers. This, however, does not hold true for certain local right-wing media outlets. These conservative websites cover DeSantis almost on a daily basis and enjoy access to the governor’s administration that the rest of the media does not.
But although sites like The Florida Standard and Florida’s Voice may be comparatively small, with around 100,000 viewers per site according to a media tracking service, they may be serving a larger cause.
Conservative media major players like Ben Shapiro, who has 5.5 million Twitter followers, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, with 2 million, have routinely re-tweeted stories written by these news sites, bringing DeSantis-focused content not only to the right-wing media, but the mainstream media as well. Even Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ former press secretary, has tweeted DeSantis-focused stories to her Twitter followers.
By contrast, reporters like Thomas Kennedy, a freelance journalist and a community organizer; Ben Frazier, a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and Grant Stern, of the progressive political organization Occupy Democrats, have been banned from, or thrown out, of DeSantis’ press conferences.
RELATED: Gov. DeSantis Favors ‘Friendly’ Journalists. Here’s What Happens to a Reporter Who Holds Him Accountable.
“These are just some examples, but there is a clear pattern and history of reporters either getting arrested, threatened, denied access or berated by the governor when they put even the smallest inkling of criticism or push back against him,” Kennedy told Floricua.
As DeSantis prepares to announce his run for the presidency in 2024, some, like Kennedy, see the governor’s confrontational stance with the media as a major red flag.
A Growing Concern
Last February, DeSantis’ office announced that his staff “will not take questions from NBC News or MSNBC until host Andrea Mitchell apologizes for misrepresenting [the governor’s] bans on books about Black history.”
This is not the only way by which the DeSantis administration stifles members of the press not deemed “friendly,” a term used by the governor’s own team.
The Florida state legislature is now considering a bill that presumes “information from anonymous sources to be false and removes protections that allow journalists to shield the identity of sources if they are sued,” according to a report by the Orlando Sentinel. The bill also ensures that those who sue news outlets don’t need to prove that the outlets displayed a reckless disregard for the truth.
RELATED: ‘We Cannot Allow These Threats Against Free Speech to Continue’: Professors Ask Judge to Block DeSantis’ Censorship Effort
The proposal would not just make it easier to sue journalists, but could spark a legal battle intent on overturning New York Times v. Sullivan, the 1964 Supreme Court decision that limits the ability of a public official to sue publishers for defamation. If overturned, government figures and big businesses with deep pockets would have more control over what can be printed or aired, as the fear of costly litigation could lead editors to question which stories to report.
A Dangerous Path
Although DeSantis has not announced a bid for the presidency, a 2024 run announcement is expected from the Florida governor. For this reason, many view his ongoing war on the press with alarm.
“He is obviously planning on running for president, and it would be a disaster if he gets anywhere close to national office,” warns DeSantis-banned reporter Thomas Kennedy.
“If DeSantis wins [the presidency in 2024], it won’t just impact Florida, it will impact the whole country,” says FAIR, the national media watch group established in 1986.