The MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade: Election Division
The Media Research Center effectively served as part of the campaign PR operation for GOP Florida governor Ron DeSantis as he ran for re-election, hyping his dubious election-cop operation and bashing his critics.
By Terry Krepel
On Monday, CBS Mornings adopted the left-wing premise that a new election fraud investigative unit in the State of Florida was a threat to democracy and proceeded to line up Democrats to denounce the specialized law enforcement team as a racist “goon squad.” The segment ultimately concluded that Republican Governor Ron DeSantis unlike his Democratic opponents was entirely motivated by “politics.”
Drennen offered no evidence that there was no partisan motivation behind DeSantis' election squad.
Kevin Tober served up more complaints about criticism in an April 25 post:
On Monday night’s episode of The ReidOut, the vile and race-obsessed MSNBC host Joy Reid opened her show by throwing a tantrum over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing into law the creation of a new state election integrity unit that will be tasked with helping the state enforce election laws and crackdown on voter fraud or other election irregularities.
An April 26 post by Alex Christy complaining about a CNN report on the DeSantis' election cops tried to turn the tables by insisting that the election cops won't intimidate voters but, instead, it's speculation about them that will actually suppress voter turnout: "CNN has set up a self-fulfilling prophecy. It doesn’t matter that Florida isn’t intimidating voters, but if it falsely reports that it is, people will believe it, which will lead to a lower turnout, which they will then claim validates their false reporting."
When DeSantis announced that his election cops had arrested 20 people for allegedly voting when not eligible, it was Curtis Houck's turn to deflect from criticism in an Aug. 23 post:
In an editorial for Tuesday’s print edition, The Washington Post screeched over an announcement last week from Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) that, as per a release from his office, 20 people were arrested for having despite having been banned from voting for having been convicted of either murder or sex crimes.
Actually, that focus on people of color in Democratic counties would seem to more than justify the fears the MRC had previously dismissed. As the Post noted, four people from Florida's right-wing senior enclave The Villages have also been arrested for alleged voting fraud, but DeSantis "did not hold a press conference to celebrate that triumph of law enforcement."
Houck also complained that "The Post explained that their gripe derived in part from the fact that 'the tiny number of cases brought so far underscores the paucity of voter fraud' and excused away the actions of the defendants due to what they speculated was some confusion." Given that, as the Post also reported, those 20 alleged violations occurred in an election in which more than 11 million people voted.
There's also a legitimate concern regarding the confusion angle. Advocates for those arrested have said those accused had no deliberate intent -- which is required under state law -- and some said government officials had actually sent them voter registration materials, leading them to believe they were eligible to vote.
But the MRC's readers don't about these developments because it has not addressed the story again. DeSantis can't be questioned, after all.
Indeed, after the dubiousness of the election-cop program was demonstrated again, the MRC again rushed to DeSantis' defense -- not that Kevin Tober framed it that way in an Oct. 18 post:
On Tuesday, during a segment on CBS Evening News, the leftwing newscast seemed shocked and appalled that in Florida, violent felons are being arrested for committing an act of voter fraud by illegally voting when they had lost their right to cast their ballots after being convicted of felonies.
It wasn't until later in his post that Tober got around to alluding to the real issue: Many of these people were not explicitly told they were not eligible to vote, and their voting applications were not rejected by the state, which presumably would have a running list of which former felons are not eligible to vote. But Tober depicted reporting of that relevant context as "whining."
Nicholas Fondacaro echoed this dishonest framing a day later:
Leave it to ABC’s The View to take up the position that murderers, pedophiles, and other sex offenders deserve to vote and commit voter fraud. That was the hill they wanted to die on Wednesday after body-camera video surfaced showing Florida law enforcement officers arresting individuals accused of illegally voting. The cast didn’t seem to know what the law was with one claiming they were illegally arrested and another claiming the Republicans were cheating to win.
Fondacaro also got annoyed when the co-hosts pointed out that DeSantis wasn't sending any police raids to the folks in The Villages:
Hostin went on to declare the law was “racially targeted” (an odd thing to argue since the law does not mention race, just that murderers and sex offenders can’t vote). Assuming only white people are Republican, she angrily demanded elderly folks from a Florida retirement community be arrested in front of cameras:
Farah Griffin is right, of course, given that this is the exact framing both Tober and Fondacaro used in their posts -- but Fondacaro irrationally hates her too much to ever admit that.
Tober repeated his dishonest framing again in an Oct. 19 post:
On Wednesday night's edition of MSNBC's The ReidOut, host Joy Reid opened the show by lashing out at Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for daring to enforce the laws of his state and not allow violent felons to illegally vote in elections. Reid who presumably wants violent felons to be allowed to vote melted down and accused Florida of being a Jim Crow state.
Tober, of course, censored the issues with DeSantis' election cops.
Two days after Tober's post, the first defendant arrested by DeSantis' election cops had his case dismissed, albeit due to a jurisdiction issue. The MRC was completely silent about that. In late December, a third case brought by DeSantis' election police was thrown out; the MRC said nothing about that either.
The MRC has defended DeSantis on smaller issues over the past year as well.
Margaret Buckley defended DeSantis in an Aug. 5 post over criticism from the folks on "Morning Joe" for suspending elected state prosecutor Andrew Warren for not kowtowing to DeSantis' anti-LGBTQ agenda:
Since Warren had “vowed” to not follow ethical laws that protect unborn children from being killed and protect confused and impressionable children from groomers, it is safe to say that DeSantis had good reasons for the suspension.
Buckley attacked Warren again in an Aug. 9 post when the "rogue attorney" appeared on "Morning Joe":
Morning Joe tried to get viewers’ tears flowing for democracy on Tuesday by bringing on Florida state attorney, Democrat, and lefty-caterer Andrew Warren. Warren was recently suspended by Governor Ron DeSantis for refusing “to enforce Florida's 15-week ban on abortion and gender-affirming care.” Warren’s response? Acting like a free-speech martyr and calling DeSantis a “wannabe dictator,” and the MSNBC cast was fine with it.
Tim Graham spent an Aug. 11 post complaining about an Associated Press article citing right-wingers in general -- and DeSantis in particular for his "don't say gay" law, a term Graham hates -- for fueling a rise in anti-LGBTQ hate. An Aug. 15 post by Graham whined that DeSantis tweeting out an image of the "Don't Tread on Me" Gadsden flag as a license plate design was (not incorrectly) interpreted as an embrace of "a dangerous far-right extremist ideology" by NPR, serving up lame whataboutism in response:
How do you know the left-wing media is gunning for Ron DeSantis? When taxpayer-funded NPR suddenly finds the "Don't Tread on Me" flag from the Revolutionary War to be a "far-right" emblem of lies and violence.
Alex Christy used an Aug. 19 post to defend from CNN commentator Bakari Sellers a DeSantis-promoted law designed to censor certain discussions of race, particularly if they involve the right-wing buzzword of critical race theory:
Like abortion laws, it is clear media personalities commenting on these laws have not read them. There is nothing in the law that prohibits teachings of “racial discrimination, as well as topics relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in racial oppression.”
In a Sept. 22 post, Kevin Tober complained that "demonic" MSNBC host Joy Reid used the Martha's Vineyard flights "to harken back to when he informed high school students at a public event that they weren't required to wear masks as the same as "whipping up a mob at the University of Mississippi because James Meredith was coming and then cheering it on as four people are killed in that mob."(Needless to say, the MRC defended DeSantis over the mask incident.) Tober huffed in response: "Reid either doesn't know her history, or she's pretending that Republicans were for the evil racist violence that was so common in the old south during the early to mid-1960s. Regardless, any person with a firm grasp on reality knows Ron DeSantis doesn't support violence of any kind and is against racism."
Even book reviews were not exempt. Clay Waters complained in a Sept. 23 post that a review by Stephen King of a book that referenced a library's empty shelves lest people be exposed to "dangerous ideas" and added that "The Florida Parental Rights Bill, signed by Governor DeSantis in March of this year, is basically a free pass to text censorship." Waters huffed in response: "Wrong! It's age-inappropriate obscenity and sexual scenes, not 'dangerous ideas,' being 'censored' (as in, removed from school libraries)."
Jason Cohen spent a Sept. 29 post complaining that knee-jerk right-wing praise of DeSantis was being called as creepy and authoritarian-looking:
This is awfully unfair to the millions of Floridians and Americans who are proponents of DeSantis’s policies, which are less authoritarian than many leftwing governors’. Nobody wants to acknowledge backing a figure whose views are beyond the pale, according to the mainstream media. It naturally has a chilling effect on speech. (It also hands liberals some nasty surprises on election day, since voters won’t admit their preferences to pollsters.)
Curtis Houck used an Oct. 13 post to attack a CBS segment pointing out the right-wing obsession with labeling any critic as "woke" and that "a portion of the segment from socialist co-host Tony Dokoupil took aim at Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) for what Dokoupil complained in a tease was 'say[ing] the word' work [sic] 'a lot.'" He added: "Dokoupil then teed off on DeSantis, lamenting that, 'in the battle to define America,' the Sunshine State leader 'has what amounts to his very own fight song,' 'a campaign ad inspired by Top Gun' and the word woke serving as the “one political target he seems to favor above all others.” Houck found none of that creepy and authoritarian, of course -- heck, he couldn't even be bothered to explain why he thinks Dokoupil is "socialist."
The brigade's re-election office
Given that DeSantis was running for re-election in 2022, the Defense Brigade stepped things up on the way to the midterms to shout down criticism and opposition. Houck served as DeSantis' press agent in an Oct. 3 post praising the governor for lashing out at criticism of his handling of recovery efforts after Hurricane Ian hit the state:
Over the weekend, the liberal media made the pivot to pin blame for Hurricane Ian’s catastrophic destruction and loss of life in Florida n Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and Lee County officials. CNN was naturally part of this campaign Sunday afternoon as they sent correspondent Nadia Romero to confront DeSantis. Spoiler alert: It didn’t go well for them as DeSantis wiped the floor with the assembled journalists.
Alex Christy served up more post-Ian cleanup for DeSantis in a Oct. 5 post, complaining that PolitiFact called DeSantis' complaint about Lee County not being in the cone until three days before the hurricane hit was "mostly false" because part of the county actually was; Christy whined that this part is merely "an uninhabited state park." Kathleen Krumhansl, meanwhile, huffed in an Oct. 6 post (also in Spanish):
The want for a steady audience to ensure their networks' survival got the best of Univision and Telemundo’s newsrooms during their reports this week about four looters -- three of whom are undocumented migrants -- that were arrested in the hurricane-ravaged community of Fort Myers, Florida.
Krumhansl then cranked out a statement that was worthy of a DeSantis campaign ad:
Missing from the report: the fact that since day one, Governor DeSantis has been on the ground (including in Ft. Myers) coordinating and participating in recovery efforts involving tens, hundreds of Hispanics, along with people of all races and backgrounds that have come together as one to help their fellow Americans in a moment of tragedy.
Houck spent an Oct. 25 post raging that TV news dared to mention DeSantis' opponent:
On Tuesday morning, the “big three” of ABC, CBS, and NBC engaged in a comical and hopeless rescue mission to convince viewers that turncoat and Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL) has a chance to retake Florida’s governorship against incumbent Governor Ron DeSantis (R) thanks to a debate in which Crist attacked the “firebrand” DeSantis over his “controversial policies” and possible 2024 bid for president.
"That "mole hill" was DeSantis refusing to say that he would fill out his entire term and not quit in the middle of it to run for president in 2024. Houck's whining continued:
CBS Mornings had an extended news brief on the foray. Co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King lamented in the “Eye Opener” that DeSantis was “running for a second term, but refusing to say if he'll run for president.”
Houck unironically claimed that the shows were " simping for liberals," apparently oblivious to the fact that he's simping for DeSantis.
Clay Waters whined about the New York Times' coverage of the DeSantis-Crist debate in an Oct. 28 post:
New York Times reporters Patricia Mazzei and Maggie Astor reported on Monday evening’s one and only debate in the Florida governor’s race, pitting sitting Republican Ron DeSantis against Democrat and former state governor Charlie Crist.
Houck served up more DeSantis simping in a Nov. 3 post:
For anyone who’s been censored, dismissed, mocked, and trashed for opposing the initial, conventional wisdom on the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday’s CBS Mornings brought about some schadenfreude as co-host Tony Dokoupil went to Florida and found that Governor Ron DeSantis’s (R-FL) policies on the virus were not only popular, but even admitted that he might have been right.
Having a higher COVID death rate than 37 other states is hardly anything to brag about, let alone evidence that DeSantis was "right," but you be you, Curt.
Tim Graham spent a Nov. 7 post whining about supposed "hit pieces in the last weekend of the campaign" in both the New York Times and the Washington Post. Houck returned for another simping post on Nov. 8 gloating that a newscast apparently "couldn’t find a single hater of Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and open supporter for his opponent, Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL)."
The MRC also made sure to simp and gloat when DeSantis handily won re-election. Nicholas Fondacaro cheered that "DeSantis winning a majority of Latinos in his runaway victory against Democrat Charlie Crist" was "a bright spot in what turned out to be wet blanket Election Day for Republicans," while Christy complained that Republican strategist Ana Navarro pointed out that DeSantis "gamed the system" by changing election laws, huffing in response: "Sounds like DeSantis won because of a combination of his own strengths and Democratic weakness, not gaming the system, but that Navarro just doesn’t want to admit it."