The MRC's Florida Men Strike Again
When Florida -- led by potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis -- suffered yet another massive pandemic outbreak due in part to his lax efforts to contain it, the Media Research Center felt compelled to rush to his defense once more.
By Terry Krepel
Last year, the Media Research Center fawned all over Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his hands-off approach to the coronavirus epidemic in his state -- then had to switch to defense mode when the state became an epicenter of COVID infection. Well, Florida became an pandemic epicenter again over the summer, this time due to the spread of the Delta variant -- in part due to DeSantis' laissez-faire approach that forbade mask mandates and not being terribly encouraging of people to get the vaccine -- and the MRC went back into defense mode for its favorite Florida man.
Alex Christy complained on July 17 that CNN's Chris Cuomo spread "disinformation" by "insinuating" that DeSantis isn't encouraging people to get vaccinated, then made excuses for DeSantis' abhorrent behavior:
DeSantis has been vocal in his opposition to vaccine passports, mandates, and is selling anti-Fauci merchandise, but has never said "don't get vaccinated." The anti-Fauci fundraising is about masks and lockdowns, not vaccines. If Cuomo can't understand the difference between being against mandates and being against vaccines, that's on him, not DeSantis.
Christy also falsely identified guest Leana Wen as "Planned Parenthood president" -- she left that position two years ago, and even then was the group's president for only nine months. (the MRC is weirdly obsessed with tagging Wen as tied to Planned Parenthood even though it's irrelevant to her current TV appearances as a health expert.) Christy then justified people who refuse to get the vaccine by blaming others, not them, for their own behavior:
The people who remain unvaccinated need to be convinced and telling them that nothing will change regardless will just confirm their suspicions that restrictions will last forever, or worse, that the vaccines don't work. That is far more damaging to the vaccination campaign than any anti-Fauci beer koozie.
Christy returned on July 31 to portray any criticism of DeSantis' handling on COVID as an effort to derail his potential 2024 presidential campaign:
It is obvious that the media view Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as a 2024 threat; hence every discussion about COVID and the Delta variant must include an implication that Florida is a uniquely dire situation.
Mark Finkelstein peddled the same angle in an Aug. 2 post:
As the number of COVID cases rises in Florida, opportunistic liberal talk shows are taking more pot shots at Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate. It's never too early to bury him.
Clay Waters complained that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman "pointed out that over 10,000 Floridians are currently hospitalized with Covid, then blamed DeSantis," adding that "Krugman was obliged to note, but strenuously attempted to discount, the inconvenient fact that Florida is actually doing just fine with vaccinations." Waters then huffed:
Speaking of life, DeSantis kept Florida schools open, as the luckless children under blue state regimes suffered developmental setbacks and loneliness. How rejecting masks for the upcoming school year could possibly impact case levels in the present day is a baffler, but intellectual consistency has never been Krugman’s strong suit.
After MSNBC's Joe Scarborough pointed out that DeSantis' pandering to his right-wing supporters on COVID made him sound a bit like "Simpsons" character Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel, Finkelstein returned to sneer: "Was Joe Scarborough ever a good ol' Southern boy, as he still likes to portray himself? In any case, that persona has definitively disappeared. On today's Morning Joe, Scarborough exposed himself as the worst kind of condescending Upper West Side snob."
As the COVID death toll mounted in Florida, Kristine Marsh helped DeSantis distract and play whataboutism while decrying a new nickname for the guy:
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has increasingly become one of the left’s favorite targets. So it should come as no surprise that he drew the ire of the media on Thursday after he fired back at President Biden for lecturing him on his coronavirus leadership.
Christy then served up more defense for DeSantis on Aug. 5 by insisting that he's not terrible on COVID, he's merely average:
The media's obsession with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continued on Tuesday as Katy Tur Reports guest host Geoff Bennett let gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried spread multiple untruths about DeSantis' pandemic response. That Fried was allowed to spread such claims was not surprising as Bennett's questioning relied on similarly false premises.
Christy was rather desperately understating the situation in Florida. As week after his post, Florida alone accounted for nearly 18 percent of all new COVID cases in the U.S. And if the vaccination rate of both Florida and Texas had been higher, 70,000 hospitalizations and 4,700 deaths could have been prevented through July.
Finkelstein lost it on Aug. 6 when commenters on CNN pointed out the ultimate implication for DeSantis' inaction and attempt to punish anyone trying to do anything useful like making schoolchildren wear masks:
Appearing on CNN's New Day this morning, a Democrat [sic] strategist accused Republicans of wanting "to basically turn Florida into a morgue."
Jeffrey Lord played whataboutism in his Aug. 7 column, declaring that criticism of DeSantis by CNN's Chris Cuomo "can quickly be perceived as an attempt, yet again, to use his show to distract from his brother’s Covid record by attacking DeSantis," adding:
To say the least, this isn’t good for Chris and it isn’t good for CNN. But the idea that his show would focus on attacking DeSantis - while being strangely silent not only on his brother’s nursing home scandal or the rest of his mess - but being silent on President Biden’s policy that has resulted in thousands of Covid-infected illegals swarming across the US border? All that does is increase the perception that Chris is really about liberal or Democratic Party activism as opposed to journalism.
Actually, that's not true -- there's no link between rising COVID rates and "dispersing the migrants around the country." But that didn't stop Kristine Marsh from complaining that CNN's Brianna Keilar "accused Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Senator Ted Cruz of perpetuating a 'dangerous trope' that illegal immigrants were spreading Covid," insisting that "this isn’t a figment of Republicans’ imaginations."
Finkelstein melted down again on Aug. 9 over "Morning Joe":
With Joe away, Mika jumped on his repetition hobby horse on today's Morning Joe. Her phrase: "death cult." In the opening segment, Mika used "death cult" no fewer than eight times to hammer DeSantis, Florida, and others over the Covid vaccine. In her melodramatic spiel, Mika veered from haranguing her audience to choking up.
Kyle Drennen complained the same day:
After denouncing the Trump administration for banning travel from China in 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, on Monday, CNN’s New Day actually promoted the notion of somehow imposing a travel ban on the state of Florida over a recent rise in COVID cases there. Without a sense of irony, the show hyped the notion that travel from the Sunshine State would have already been banned if it were a foreign country.
On Aug. 10, Gabriel Hays declared that actor Bill Burr "revealed his disdain for freedom" by committing the offense of criticizing DeSantis:
Bill Burr is the champion of waffling between good opinions and downright awful ones. On a good day he hates cancel culture or CNN, but on a bad day he targets Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and calls him a “piece of shit” for blocking mask mandates.
It was then Curtis Houck's turn to lash out at criticism of DeSantis, this time from MSNBC's Joy Reid: "On MSNBC’s The ReidOut, host Joy Reid and lefty guests Tim Miller and Rick Wilson decided on Tuesday to go full Alan Grayson or the late Ed Schultz in proclaiming that not only does Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) not 'care' 'about the well-being of' Floridians, but he himself is 'rooting for' his 'strategy' of 'killing children in [his] own state.'"
Finkelstein returned to complain about "Morning Joe" once more:
Joe, back this morning, bought into Mika's "death cult" trope. Scarborough was responding to a report from NBC's Kerry Sanders, who said that a Collier County [Naples area] mom who was sending her children to school without masks was doing so because "we believe our faith will protect us."
Houck lashed out at Reid again on Aug. 12:
On Wednesday night’s ReidOut, MSNBC’s Joy Reid decided to double down on her poisonous narrative that not only are right-of-center Americans bad people, but they’re murderous terrorists. Along with a series of like-minded guests, Reid insisted these conspiracy theory-laden savages want to overthrow the government while having their Covid-infected children flood schools.
Tim Graham rehashed much of this in his Aug. 13 column, huffing, "This was their 2020 playbook on Trump, that he was killing his own supporters." He then reignited his war on fact-checkers by complaining they weren't fact-checking any of this, despite not providing evidence that the statements that so offended him and the rest of the MRC are anything other than hyperbolic political criticism not meant to be taken literally.
The same day, Charlotte Hazard groused that DeSantis got called out again for the path the state is going:
On Thursday’s Late Show, leftist host Stephen Colbert once again took it upon himself to take shots at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). The so-called comedian gleefully touted President Biden forgetting the Republican's name when a reporter asked Biden to respond to DeSantis saying “I am in the way to block too much interference from the federal government."
When Colbert played a clip of DeSantis saying he didn't "want to hear a blip about COVID" from President Biden, Hazard protested it was taken out of context:
Placed in the full context, DeSantis was calling out Biden for being a hypocrite when it comes to COVID, particularly when it came to outbreaks among illegal immigrants entering the U.S.. "Why don’t you do your job?" the Florida Republican said during a press conference on August 4. "Why don't you get this border secure? And until you do that, I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID from you, thank you."
Why is DeSantis wasting his time taking shots at Biden over the "souther border" when he has more pressing concerns regarding COVID deaths in his own state? Hazard didn't answer that question.
Defenses wind down
After that, the defenses got more sporadic -- perhaps indicating even the MRC got tired of defending the guy.
Clay Waters ranted on Aug. 31 that New York Times columnist Charles Blow was "SICK" for criticizing DeSantis:
Besides being hateful, Blow’s column is incredibly thin on facts to support his case for DeSantis the killer. He can’t fault DeSantis on vaccinations, because Florida is at the national average on that score, and better than most states in the South. Instead, his sole attack line is mask mandates in schools, which could not have affected the number of Covid cases yet anyway.
Scott Whitlock played whataboutism in a Sept. 6 roundup item:
For an entire month, the ghouls in the media repeatedly labeled the GOP a “death cult” led by Republican governors like Ron “DeathSantis” of Florida and “Dr. Evil” Greg Abbot [sic] of Texas.
When CNN highlighted how President Biden called out DeSantis and Abbott for trying to penalize schools for mandating masks against their dictatorial orders, Alex Christy sounded like a bit like an anti-vaxxer as he rushed to the governors' defense in a Sept. 10 post:
When we talk about mask mandates and freedom, it is not at all clear that science mandates kids wear masks nor is it clear that the CDC relied on science when it said otherwise.
Curtis Houck freaked out on Sept. 15 that Reid criticized DeSantis and other Republicans again, effectively demanding she be censored for doing so: "With a rant like that, NewsBusters readers, take particular note of how Comcast has given its approval to this dangerous and inciting rhetoric as well as the advertisers listed at the bottom of this blog."
Weird how the MRC loves to cry "censorship" whenever a right-winger gets inconvenienced on social media for spreading lies and misinformation, yet it demands a critic who doesn't toe the right-wing ideological line be muzzled -- which is the only reason Houck is exhorting his readers to contact advertisers.