The Florida Men At The MRC
The Media Research Center touted Florida and its Republican governor as an example of how to handle coronavirus -- then had to go into defense mode when the state became an epicenter of coronavirus infection.
By Terry Krepel
A few months back, when Florida had relatively low coronavirus infection and death rates, the Media Research Center was a huge fan of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. In a May 22 post, for instance, P.J. Gladnick proclaimed that DeSantis "took measures that resulted in a not only a flattening of the coronavirus cases curve but a general decline despite his state having a large elderly population" and touted how he "unleashed on the media for their absurdly unfair coverage as you can see."
In that same post, Gladnick attacked Rebekah Jones, who claimed she was fired as a Florida state employee for refusing to artificially lower coronavirus numbers on a state dashboard website, as "disgruntled" and "discredited" and someone who was "fired for poor performance." He cited a right-wing website parroting the DeSantis administration's claim that Jones was fired for "insubordination" and accusing her of having an "extensive criminal history."
The next day, Alex Christy similarly praised DeSantis, touting how "Florida's coronavirus numbers have done better than expected," then bashed CNN for having Jones on as a guest, echoing the DeSantis camp's assertion that her claims have been "debunked" and the personal attack on her by referencing "her open cyberstalking and cyber sexual harassment cases."
On May 25, Kristine Marsh groused: "It doesn’t seem that the media has learned anything after they completely mangled their predictions that red states like Florida and Georgia would see catastrophic consequences for opening up early. On MSNBC this afternoon, “conservative” analyst Rick Tyler was ready to make more hyperbolic predictions about red states getting “hit hard” by the coronavirus in coming months.
Of course, that's exactly what happened in Florida since then -- the state has become a burgeoning epicenter of coronavirus cases. (Don't expect Marsh to apologize; that's not what the MRC does.) As a result, the MRC has gone into defense mode for DeSantis, mostly in the form of deflecting from the bad numbers by playing whataboutism and insisting that other states, like New York, have a worse record.
When a CNN host criticized DeSantis and pointed out how Florida numbers are growing while New York numbers are decreasing, Duncan Schroeder used a June 25 post to throw some misleading numbers around:
This was a preposterous comparison, as New York has far more coronavirus deaths than Florida. New York has the most COVID deaths of any state at 30,934 deaths, while Florida has 3,172 deaths. Furthermore, New York has had over three times as many total cases as Florida, at 393,257 cases to 100,209 cases. Per a thousand people, New York has had 159 deaths, while Florida has only had 15.
Michael Dellanno made basically the same argument on June 30:
On Saturday, MSNBC’s AM Joy, host Joy Reid created a platform dedicated to vicious attacks against Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis’s handling of coronavirus, as well as other GOP governors’ reopening approaches. The panelists maliciously went after the Florida governor, even going as far as giving him the nickname, ‘Governor Disastrous,’ all while completely giving a pass on Democratic governors mishandling of the pandemic. ... [N]o state should be compared to New York, not a single state will nearly be as bad as the Democrat run state of New York.
Schroeder attacked "good Democrat" Kayyem once again in a July 7 post for having "spouted venom at Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis,"talking down the entire threat of coronavirus to protect the governor:
If Kayyem wanted to provide actual data about a Republican run state, she could have mentioned that the death rate has declined nationally by 76% over the last 10 weeks. Or that over half the deaths in the majority of states are not related to children but are in nursing homes, which is .6 of America’s total population. She could have mentioned that the overall death rate from COVID is 0.26 percent and that the CDC says that school age children almost never die from COVID or even need to be hospitalized. Or that asymptomatic spread of the virus is very rare.
That fit of number-slinging would seem to make Schroeder a good Trump and DeSantis Republican.
Schroeder complained on July 11 that DeSantis was criticized again, huffing the commentators ignored "the fact that the majority of the leading states in cases and deaths are run by Democrats.
Adam Burnett joined in pushing the New York whataboutism angle in a July 13 post: "While it is true that Florida edges out other states for the most in the country, the death rate per 100k people pales in comparison to the media’s favorite state to praise for coronavirus handling, New York. Florida currently has 19.7 deaths per 100k, New York has 78.4 per 100k. But the media will never call out Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo like they do Governor DeSantis, since reporters are so deep in the tank for the Democratic Party. "
Burnett also lectured: "It must be easy to be part of the left-wing media machine. Aside from writing or talking, all you have to do is cherry pick your information and then blast out a partisan narrative to your audience that exclusively aides [sic] Democrats." He didn't describe how easy it was to be a right-wing "media researcher" who cherry-picks information and then blasts out a partisan narrative to his audience.
A July 14 post by Kathleen Krumhansl (also available in Spanish) complained about Latino news networks, where allegedly "numbers are routinely bent to fit their ongoing glorification of New York, and demonization of Florida and other Republican states." The whataboutism came hot and heavy: "According to data from the CDC, in New York City alone, the fatality rate is 277.7 deaths per hundred thousand; for the whole state of Florida, total deaths reach 19.9 deaths per hundred thousand."
The same day, Duncan Schroeder huffed that "CNN co-host John Berman brought on Miami Beach’s Democratic Mayor Dan Gelber to spread liberal propaganda about Florida's response to COVID-19. Throughout the segment, Berman bashed the state's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and attempted to make Gelber’s handling of the pandemic look better." He also huffed whataboutism: "Attacking DeSantis is nothing new for Berman. He's repeatedly savaged the Republican, but refused to hold Democratic governors such as New York’s Andrew Cuomo accountable for their mismanagement of the virus."
Schroeder also complained that a doctor who appeared on CNN was bashing Republican governors like DeSantis for their mismanagement of the pandemic, grousing that he should "have noted that California had more deaths than Texas and Florida yesterday."
Krumhansl returned to complain (in Spanish as well) that Univision provided "sympathetic coverage of a lawsuit filed by Florida's largest teacher’s union against DeSantis" over opening schools in the fall, ranting that "Univision’s viewers did not hear from Hispanic parents who want schools to open, nor from experts with views on how to safely make that happen, nor from anyone from the DeSantis Administration. She went on to assert that Univision "supports and advocates for infinite lockdowns," though she offered no alternative idea for stopping the spread of coronavirus.
After that, though, the MRC seemed to finally tire of defending Florida and DeSantis, apparently realizing the situation there was too dire for even its diehard partisans to defend.