The MRC's DeSantis Defense League Assembles
It seems there's nothing that Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis does -- no matter how offensive -- that the Media Research Center won't try to justify and defend.
By Terry Krepel
That's true even when he can't perform the basic political duty of properly criticizing Nazis in his state. Curtis Houck huffed in a Feb. 2 post:
Tuesday night on CBS’s The Late Show, far-left host Stephen Colbert engaged in the latest smear against Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL), falsely claiming he was “silent” on alleged neo-Nazi gatherings and deceptively edited a clip to claim he only commented so far as to attack Democrats for using it against him. In reality, DeSantis slammed the white supremacists as “jackasses.”
But Houck omitted important facts about DeSantis' statement. First, it took two days for him to issue a response, and it happened at a Q&A with reporters that was originally about another issue -- so the claim that DeSantis had been silent on the issue is not without merit. Second, DeSantis' press secretary, Christina Pushaw, issued a tweet (since deleted) suggesting the Nazis were actually Democrats in disguise, and she continued to make that baseless suggestion on her Twitter account and in other statements.
It remains ironic that the MRC -- which gets mad when right-wing Babylon Bee's satire gets fact-checked because other right-wingers present it as fact -- works so hard to fact-check jokes it doesn't like.
Kevin Tober similarly vouched for DeSantis' dubious defense, this time from Rachel Maddow, in a Feb. 3 post. Like Houck, Tober omitted the fact that it took DeSantis two days to respond and censored the fact that Pushaw's posts pushed the unproven claim that the Nazis were disguised Democrats.
Defending bashing mask-wearing teens
When DeSantis was criticized for lashing out at teenagers wearing masks at a speech he was giving, the MRC rushed to defense mode yet again. Kevin Tober declared in a March 2 post that anyone who didn't accept the MRC's benign interpretation of DeSantis' remarks was a liar:
On Wednesday, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News both took issue with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis letting a group of High School students know that it is ok for them to take their masks off while they were standing behind him during a public event at the University of Florida.
Tober apparently never considered the possibility that the teens' smiles were nervous out of fear of what DeSantis might do if they defied him by the simple, harmless act of continuing to wear a mask.
Nicholas Fondacaro yet again smeared women he doesn't like (and would never give him the time of day) as a "coven" for holding an opinion he is paid to oppose:
Things got dark on Thursday’s edition of ABC’s The View as the coven went after one of their favorite hate objects: Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis after he committed the crime of informing high school students they were’t forced to wear masks anymore. Cohost Sunny Hostin got so incensed that she seemed to suggest that if it was one of her kids DeSantis spoke to, she would physically attack him. She at least warned her response would not be “legal.”
Fondacaro then attacked "The View" for making its audience wear masks though "the CDC says much of the country doesn’t need to wear masks indoors anymore." We thought conservatives like Fondacaro were all about freedom of choice.
Tober returned to complain that the non-right-wing media was still covering the story, suggesting that outrage doesn't exists if non-conservatives are the ones who are outraged:
On Thursday night, for the second night in a row, NBC Nightly News spent valuable air time trashing Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for telling a group of high school students at a public event that they don’t have to wear masks.
DeSantis actually mocked the students for wearing masks and tried to shame them into not wearing one -- much more arrogant behavior what what Tober was accusing Walensky of doing. If DeSantis believed in the students' freedom to wear a mask, he should have said nothing.
Alex Christy defended DeSantis against more criticism in a March 4 post:
Nothing DeSantis said was wrong. At this point it is ridiculous and theater, but Bolduan still accused DeSantis of “scolding” the students, “You may not have to, but the governor there scolding a group of high school students for exercising their right to wear a mask if they want to. CNN’s Steve Contorno, live in Florida with more on this. Steve, what do you think is going on?”
Christy whined that CNN noted how "DeSantis is fundraising off the moment, Contorno attempted to tie his remarks to Florida’s allegedly disastrous COVID record," then tried to play a numbers game: "Yes, Florida has more deaths, but that’s because they have more people than most states, but even Contorno’s attempt to back up his claim with data about deaths per capita misses the mark. In age-adjusted deaths per capita, Florida ranks 34th out of all 50 states plus Washington, D.C." Of course, Christy picked that massaged number to make Florida look relatively good; in real life, Florida has one of the highest death rates per 100,000 residents, and the death rate in Republican-led states is higher than that of Democratic-led states.
Alex Christy used a March 4 post to note that DeSantis' sniping was "a perfectly reasonable thing to say given the COVID situation" -- dismissing mask-wearing as "performative stunts that have no impact on COVID transmission," which is factually false -- then complained that NBC's Seth Meyers wondered of DeSantis, "How much of a dick do you have to be to yell at a bunch of high school students who are just trying to be safe?"
Tim Graham devoted his March 4 podcast to defending DeSantis and ranting about news coverage of it, insisting he was in "Mark Levin boilover" mode and admitting that even his wife thought DeSantis went too far, and argued that DeSantis' "disgusted tone is the right choice politically." Graham was still whining about in his March 8 column, rehashing much of what he ranted about in his podcast:
In the annals of TV networks manufacturing scandals, one of the lamest examples was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis telling high school students at an event of his that “you do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything, and we’ve got to stop this COVID theater.”
Graham then complained that NBC talked to a parent who criticized DeSantis:
Then there was an outraged parent: Dawn Marshall, who is immunocompromised, was furious at DeSantis. “I almost jumped out of my skin. I was really appalled. He took away my authority. He put my child at risk. He put me at risk because my child comes home to me.”
Of course, Graham and his MRC have worked long an hard to gin up critical race theory and "LGBT indoctrination" into "controversies," so his complaint about that rings more than a little hollow -- not to mention the fact that they though parent complaints were a good thing when they were spewing anti-LGBT hate at school board meetings.
Scott Whitlock tried to slam the door on the story by playing whataboutism in a March 8 post, whining about the "breathless hyping of a non-story" and complaining that "the NBC and CBS morning and evening shows devoted three minutes to a relatively minor DeSantis exchange with teenagers" while ignoring stories more friendly to Whitlock's right-wing narratives like Hunter Biden and, yes, critical race theory. Never mind, of course, that he does not explain why Hunter and CRT should not be dismissed as a "non-story."
Cheering political retaliation
The MRC loves to squeal about purported "censorship" of right-wing political speech, but it's more than happy when right-wing politicians punish political speech they don't agree with. So when DeSantis punished Disney for taking a political stance against legislation he favored by disbanding a local improvement district it runs, the MRC led the cheering section. Kevin Tober shouted down complaints of political retaliation in an April 20 post:
After the Florida state Senate passed legislation revoking Disney’s special self-governing privileges over their support for sexually indoctrinating little children in schools, ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News went into meltdown mode.
Tober didn't explain when, exactly, Disney lost its constitutional rights of free speech without fear of government retaliation, though he did complain that one reporter "added the left’s fake name for the law" Disney criticized, the "Don't Say Gay Bill." He didn't mention that the MRC used its own fake name for it, the "anti-grooming bill."
The next day, John Simmons cheered DeSantis' political punishment of Disney as "smart":
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney have been in a long standing battle ever since the governor signed the "Parental Rights in Education Bill," which prevents teaching K-3 public school children sexual material.
Kyle Drennen spent an April 22 post that DeSantis' bullying behavior was called out and pretended there was nothing wrong with it:
On MSNBC’s MTP Daily Thursday afternoon, host Chuck Todd and Florida-based NBC political reporter Marc Caputo wailed that Governor Ron DeSantis preparing to sign legislation revoking Disney World’s special economic status in the state had a “mafia feel.” The pair ranted that Florida was “only a good place to do business if you’re a private corporation that shares the ideology of the Republican governor.”
Drennen didn't explain why a corporation using the established political process to engage in activism against a law it didn't like has a "mafia feel" but DeSantis using the power of government to punish said corporation for doing so does not.
Kathleen Krumhansl similarly complained the same day:
DeSantis Derangement Syndrome took hold of anchor Juan Carlos Lopez, from CNN En Español Directo USA, as he called out the Florida governor for his 'authoritarian style of government' and for being an alleged Donald Trump copycat for ending Disney's special governance and tax status privileges.
Krumhansl did not explain why DeSantis using his government to retaliate against Disney wasn't an "authoritarian" move.
Alex Christy got mad that Republican hypocrisy was called out in an April 23 post:
The only thing CNN Newsroom host Jim Acosta and former nominal Republican strategist Ana Navara [sic] know about cancel culture is that Republicans claim to be against it. Their ignorance of the issue was illustrated on Acosta’s Saturday show as the duo accused Florida Republicans of hypocritically “cancelling” Disney by revoking its special tax status.
Christy then justified DeSantis' political retaliation because Disney "wander[ed] out of its lane":
For ill-informed at CNN, Disney isn’t cancelled. It still very much exists in Florida and isn’t going anywhere, they still have freedom of speech, but now that it has decided to wander out of its lane and advocate for unrelated left-wing causes using false talking points, it can play by the same set of rules as other corporations.
Christy didn't explain why holding views in opposition to an American politician justifies government-backed retaliation by that politician.
Tober returned for an April 24 post gushing over a conservative endorsing DeSantis' revenge because Disney deserved it for not supporting Republicans:
During CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, CNN analyst Scott Jennings was the only guest on the panel segment that dared to push back on his co-panelists who were trashing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for punishing Disney over their support for grooming children.
Nicholas Fondacaro injected his trademark misogyny into an April 26 post complaining that Disney was being defended by the hosts of "The View," who "went to the mat for their parent company Disney. Together the cackling coven accused Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) of behaving like a communist dictator and bigot who’s “anti-black”; all because he decided to sign a law to strip Disney of its “special status” over its position to oppose the Parental Rights in Education law and support leftist groomers in the classroom."
None of these MRC posts mentioned the financial catastrophe DeSantis' revenge campaign would leave on his state, since the dissolution of the Disney improvement district means that the district's financial obligations would then be forced upon local governments -- and, thus, local taxpayers -- to the tune of $1 billion.
Remember all of this the next time the MRC complains that conservatives are being retaliated against.
Purported CRT in math books
An April 19 post by Alex Christy complained that DeSantis' government was called out for rejecting purported examples of critical race theory in elementary school math textbooks:
On his Monday show on CNN, Don Lemon suggested that Florida is trying to cancel math with its new anti-Critical Race Theory Law while Bakari Sellers suggested that these types of laws are “Putin-esque” and tantamount to book burning.
Christy didn't mention the important fact that DeSantis cited no actual examples of purported critical race theory in the textbooks that were rejected.
Christy lashed out again at CNN in an April 23 post:
On his Friday CNN show, Don Lemon and correspondent Leyla Santiago condemned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for banning math textbooks that contained Critical Race Theory. When giving examples, including a bar graph alleging conservatives are more racist than liberals, it was still DeSantis that was accused of culture warring.
But the examples DeSantis' office ultimately released lacked context, and the graph Christy cited regarding the Implicit Association Test is from a high school textbook, not one for elementary students. Christy, however, didn't dispute that the test does, in fact, show that conservatives are "more racially biased than liberals and moderates," and he didn't that students are not required to take it as part of a math lesson. Instead, he attacked the test itself: "If CNN was a real news network, they would have got a differing perspective that would have informed them that the IAT is junk science that doesn’t measure bias so much as reflex times measured in milliseconds, meaning that if you take the test multiple times, you will get different results each time."
Christy then got into slippery definitions of CRT that have been encouraged by its chief right-wing critic, Christopher Rufo: "Maybe CRT is technically not the correct term for the IAT and other examples the state provided, but public schools should not be teaching that one of the two major political ideologies in this country is more racist than the other, especially in a math class. That is indoctrination and CNN never gave any compelling reason why it should be in public school math curriculum."
But like DeSantis and his minions, Christy never actually proved that those things were specifically being taught in those textbooks.
Further, when Florida released more detailed information on what reviewers found, it was clear that, as the Washington Post reported, "The reviewers overwhelmingly noted that the books had avoided forbidden topics such as critical race theory" and that there were only a few overly sensitive right-wing reviewers who complained about such things like a (completely factual) statement that the U.S. has not eradicated racism or that the Federalist Papers weren't referenced in a math discussion of the Electoral College. Those reviewers also pushed talking points against "social-emotional learning," the new outrage among hateful right-wing activists.
Those right-wing rants have nothing to do with reviewing math textbooks, but Christy won't tell you that.