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The MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade: Transition Time

After helping Ron DeSantis win another term as Florida governor, the Media Research Center is now trying to pave the way for his presidential ambitions.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/8/2023

Ron DeSantis

While the Media Research Center hasn't given up on fluffing and defending Trump, it's definitely making sure it has a space on the Ron DeSantis bandwagon as well.

After DeSantis won re-election as Florida governor -- a campaign for which his fanboys at the MRC served effectively as a campaign press agent -- the MRC continued for weeks afterward to lash out at any perceived criticism of him in the media:

The MRC got some cheerleading in as well, such as in a Nov. 29 post by Catherine Salgado gushing over how DeSantis "slammed Apple for kowtowing to the Chinese communist government while simultaneously trying to squash free speech in America by potentially banning Twitter from the App Store." She didn't explain what such foreign policy pronouncements had to do with him governing Florida. Meanwhile, Tim Graham complained about all the criticism in his Dec. 2 column:

It’s a fair point for Trump diehards to suggest that DeSantis is going to face an all-out national-media assault. But that’s true of any candidate who leads a Republican primary poll. In 2011, the national media ripped into every Republican who seemed like the front-runner, from Michele Bachmann to Rick Perry to Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, and then Romney.

Republican presidential contenders should never expect national reporters to be friendly to their campaigns, and neither should Republican voters expect that national reporters are interested in any other goal than keeping a Democrat in the White House.

This being the MRC, some of its defenses of DeSantis veered from reality. Kevin Tober complained in a Nov. 13 post:

On Sunday night’s American Voices on MSNBC, host Alicia Menendez and his panel of left wing radicals attempted to smear Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis as a “white Christian nationalist” whose religious beliefs “see[p] into his governance” of the state of Florida.

“Here's the thing with DeSantis. It's not just rhetorical. Right? It actually–this idea seeps into his governance,” Menendez cried.

Turning to MSNBC columnist and author Anthea Butler, Menendez wanted her to talk through the ridiculous argument she just made.

“it seeps into his governance because the way he thinks about the world is that God has put him in that place to rule over Florida. And so when you see this, when he’s against trans kids, and the don't say gay bill, and all of this, this is part and parcel of what he sees his Christian nationalism to be,” Butler falsely claimed.

Continuing to smear DeSantis and proving what an anti-Christian bigot she is, Butler huffed that DeSantis “thinks that he has dominion over this Earth and God has given it to him.”

But Tober censored any mention of the evidence that backs this up: an ad tweeted out by DeSantis' wife before the election featuring images of the candidate that began, "On the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said: ‘I need a protector.’ So God made a fighter." The ad went on to invoke God's name a whopping 10 times. It was so over the top that even religious media outlets criticized it -- but Tober wants you to believe such criticism of DeSantis is apropos of nothing.

Clay Waters complained that DeSantis' record on COVID issues and pandering to anti-vaxxers was criticized in a Dec. 17 post:

Don’t be fooled, voters: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is as insane as Donald Trump! That was Paul Krugman’s warning in his Friday column based on DeSantis’s occasionally hesitant tone toward vaccinations and a recent request for a grand jury probe over statements from COVID-vaccine makers: “DeSantis May Make 2024 an Election About Vaccines.”


He was angry with DeSantis for calling for a grand jury to look into possible misinformation spread by vaccine companies. Krugman sneered, “I doubt that anyone believes that DeSantis knows or cares about the scientific evidence here.”

Actually, DeSantis provided several examples of misleading claims about vaccine efficacy from Pfizer and Moderna, and President Biden himself, who falsely stated "You're not going to get Covid if you have these vaccinations." Krugman probably didn’t bother looking.

To commit his latest anti-DeSantis rant, Krugman had to ignore actual facts, available at, showing Florida’s “fully vaccinated” percentage of the population is slightly higher than the national average (68 percent vs 67 percent), significantly higher than blue states like Michigan and comparable to Oregon and Minnesota. If DeSantis is trying to seed anti-vaccine propaganda in Florida, he’s doing a lousy job of it.

Waters went on to complain that Krugman noted "thousands of excess deaths in the Sunshine State" -- which, interestingly, he didn't dispute, perhaps because he can't. Waters also cherry-picked the vaccination number: While the "fully vaccinated" number -- which refers only to the first round of vaccines -- is around the national average, the Times data to which Waters refers also noted that the booster rate is notably below the national average (29% vs. 34%).

Meanwhile, the MRC has been silent about election truther and MyPillow guy Mike Lindell (a former benificiary of the MRC's victimhood narrative for his conspiratorial promotion of election fraud in 2020) questioning the legitimacy of DeSantis' re-election. It appears that not even the MRC will never amplify questions about elections in which Republicans win, even as it continues to cling to its bogus stolen-election narrative involving Donald Trump.

New year, new PR duties

The MRC then moved on to serving as the de facto press agent for DeSantis' presumed 2024 presidential campaign as part of the rapid-response team to lash out at any perceived criticism. That started on New Year's Day with a post by Kevin Tober complaining that "newly elected radical leftist Congressman-elect Maxwell Frost" (a descriptor Tober didn't substantiate) noting how he crashed a DeSantis event, which Tober described as him "accosting" DeSantis with [checks notes] questions:

Frost claimed he “didn't stand up and yell and curse” at DeSantis. “I just stood up and said, Governor, what's your plan to end gun violence? We're dying.”

“So we came to him more with a plea and what I got in return, was nobody wants to hear from you. Getting dragged out by security. Having popcorn thrown at me and people yelling curse words and racial slurs,” Frost added to make himself seem like a victim despite willingly going to a private event where he wasn’t welcome in order to further his radical gun-grabbing agenda.

Instead of challenging Frost and scolding him for his divisive and uncivilized behavior like he would if a Republican candidate for Congress behaved in this manner, [ABC interviewer Jonathan] Karl seemed to approve:

The next day, Tober complained that DeSantis' culture-war obsession was called out, again by Frost:

During the first show of the new year, MSNBC’s The ReidOut host Joy Reid brought on radical leftist Congressman-elect Maxwell Frost to let him smear Florida Republican governor Ron DeSantis for daring to protect children from degenerate drag shows. During his rant, he went on to make the outrageously false claim that DeSantis “is more concerned with children going to drag shows than he is with children getting shot in their classrooms.” Reid’s only response to that smear was to smirk, make goofy faces, and nod along as he spewed more bile.

After appeasing Frost’s entitled whining that he’s somehow too poor to afford an apartment despite being less than 24 hours away from starting his $174,000-a-year job, Reid asked him about DeSantis cracking down on delinquent parents who bring their children to sexually explicit drag shows.

“He is now using the resources of the state when he could be fixing the insurance crisis in that state, and the affordability crisis in that state, he's investigating a holiday drag show in my former county,” Reid cried.

Reid added that DeSantis is “threatening the people who take children to a drag show with them can have the kids -- have intervention from child protective services.” She never explained why child protective services shouldn’t be called on parents who bring their children to drag shows.

Again, Tober didn't explain what makes Frost a "radical leftist" -- unless he thinks that merely criticizing DeSantis qualifies.

Alex Christy joined the defense brigade in a Jan. 5 post:

If MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough’s new year’s resolution was to avoid the death of irony, he has already failed. On Thursday’s show, Scarborough took aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s inaugural address and wondered what kind of idiot believes him because such talk is what causes Republicans to lose elections. Again, this was in response to an inaugural address after DeSantis won by nearly 20 points.


Scarborough was not deterred by the chyron that read in part, “Gov. Ron DeSantis sworn into second term.” Instead, he brought back the bad impression and alleged, “They're talking to each other. And for most Americans when Ron DeSantis says 'when the rest of the country consigned freedom to the dustbin of history blah, blah, blah,' they're like, what's he talking about? Is he talking about North Korea? Is he talking about Putin's Russia? Is he talking about Belarus? Oh, no, he's talking about California and Texas and Georgia and Kentucky.”

He was clearly referring to COVID lockdowns and other restrictions. When MSNBC and Democrats (but who can tell the difference?) talk about the loss of freedom, are they talking about North Korea, Russia, or Belarus? No, they’re talking about pro-life states, sometimes arguing they make North Korea look good by comparison.

Clay Waters spent a Jan. 15 post complaining that the New York Times pointed out DeSantis' petulant refusal to talk to a media outlet that won't fawn over him:

New York Times media reporter Michael Grynbaum pouted about Florida’s governor and potential Republican presidential candidate thumbing his nose at the “national nonpartisan” (!) media, in “Can Ron DeSantis Avoid Meeting the Press?” on Wednesday. None of these people have the faintest idea that skipping a beating from the national press endears you to GOP voters.

Grynbaum sympathized with a poor young ABC News reporter who couldn’t get a DeSantis interview, and actually forwarded praise of Trump to make DeSantis (the new threat to Democrats and their press allies) look bad:


New York Times, please define “national nonpartisan news organization.” They can't be talking about themselves, since they have published the notion that he's an "optical illusion."

Surely they don’t mean CNN and MSNBC, which are partisan in favor of liberal Democrats. Grynbaum found it ominous that DeSantis wasn’t giving the liberal press a target for their typical abuse of any Republican threatening to run for president.

Waters even defended a member of DeSantis' comm staff after making a statement suggesting she wanted violence against journalists:

He misled in his attack on former DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw, who sparred very effectively with the press on social media, by pretending that a piece of urban slang Pushaw slung online was somehow dangerous. ... “Drag them” is in fact a slang term.

Mark Finkelstein got mad that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough mocked DeSantis' presidential ambitions in a Jan. 20 post:

Are we in 2023? Or are we back in 2015? Because Joe Scarborough is back to touting Donald Trump as a juggernaut, as the heavyweight boxing champ of Republicans. This is the same pundit who couldn't stop calling Trump a "fascist" not too long ago.

On today's Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough suggested that DeSantis and his appeal is akin to Jeb Bush in 2015: someone loved by the big-business donor class, but who can't stand up to Trump. Scarborough predicted that DeSantis will decide not to run in '24 and skip the Trump "meat grinder," and instead finish his gubernatorial term with sky-high approval ratings, then start preparing a run in 2026 when he doesn't have to worry about facing Trump.


People would line up to bet Joe that DeSantis will run for the 2024 nomination. The reasons are obvious: this is DeSantis's moment. He's just coming off a tremendous re-election victory. He's got a ton of money in the campaign bank, with donors lining up to give more. He's established himself as the unquestionable leader in pushing back against the woke establishment. It looks like strike-while-the-iron-is-hot time for Ron DeSantis.

Finkelstein then appeared on Tim Graham's podcast later that day to repeat his criticism.

In a Feb. 6 post, Tim Graham cited purportedly impartial fact-checker "'Fuzzy Chimp' at Twitchy" to complain that "leftists mangled an accurate Associated Press fact check correcting the false notion that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is mandating all female high-school athletes in the state to provide detailed information about their menstrual cycles." Oddly, he named none of the "leftists" who were purportedly "mangling" this fact-check, and it surely must have been painful for Graham to admit that something from the AP was found to be accurate since that blows up part of his "liberal media" narrative. Then Graham tried to embellish things, hyping a state sports official claiming the proposed mandate was "consistent with national guidelines for sports physicals" developed by medical associations, and hyping that,"Twitchy adds one important detail on the proposed new medical forms. They state 'This medical history form should be retained by the healthcare provider and/or parent,' not by the schools."

In fact, one medical association stated that the proposed mandate wasn't consistent with its guidelines, and one Florida county planned to store the menstrual information digitally via a "sports management software" platform, but "the platform’s privacy policy, and federal law, could require it to turn data over to legal authorities or other officials if they had a valid subpoena." Ultimately, the state decided against making the information mandatory.

Meanwhile, under the headline "Disney's Attack Dogs?" Nicholas Fondacaro advanced a conspiracy theory in a Feb. 9 post that anyone on ABC who criticizes DeSantis is being ordered by its parent company, Disney, to do so:

With Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis seemingly eyeing a run for president in 2024 and his continued pressure on left-leaning Disney as they go increasingly woke, the multinational national corporation seems to have unleashed the hounds to smear him with lies on a national level. Enter the cackling coven of ABC’s The View (owned by Disney), who on Thursday unloaded truly insane accusations; accusing DeSantis of trying to remove ALL black history from Florida schools with the goal of “eras[ing]” all minorities.

Brad Wilmouth used a Feb. 10 post to serve as a loyal member of the MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade:

On Thursday's CNN This Morning, co-host Don Lemon picked up on the story from Philadelphia of a racist video surfacing of high school girls mocking Black History Month, and exploited it to an horrifically partisan degree to pontificate against Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis's education policies.

And, even though he set up the segment by noting that the girls involved are in high school, he later incorrectly claimed they were in college and suggested that they might not have behaved so badly if they had learned about black history in high school.


Governor DeSantis, of course, did not get rid of the teaching of black history in schools, but instead imposed regulations to prevent the politicization of the subject.

Meanwhile, the MRC continued to lash out any criticism of DeSantis:

The MRC also made sure to take time to fawn over DeSantis as well for adhering to right-wing narratives. Catherine Salgado gushed in a Feb. 15 post:

On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) made an announcement that puts Big Tech and Big Government on notice in the state of Florida, declaring there’s “a collusion between government and the private sector to deprive you of your rights.”

DeSantis discussed his legislative plans to restrict tech-government collusion Feb. 15, when he held a press conference to discuss his proposed Digital Bill of Rights in West Palm Beach, Florida, according to WPBF News. The governor took aim at social media and internet search engine censorship.

Florida’s Voice shared a clip from DeSantis’s press conference explaining his new Digital Bill of Rights. DeSantis said the bill of rights would not allow, “either formally or informally, any agreement between state or local government agencies and social media platforms for the purpose of content moderation.”

He cited the Twitter Files, particularly the FVBI's Twitter censorship work, and former NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s work to censor on Facebook. “Again, that’s a collusion between government and the private sector to deprive you of your rights,” DeSantis insisted.

Salgado went on to cheer that "DeSantis has also slammed woke environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards" -- another mandated right-wing narrative the MRC is pushing.

'Crystal meth and alligators'

Kevin Tober spent a Feb. 21 post freaking out because someone used DeSantis to besmirch the entire state of Florida with a description the MRC would be embracing if DeSantis was a Democrat:

As much as they say otherwise, MSNBC was terrified of Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis becoming president because they know he's a real threat to their leftist agenda. To them, Trump was an easy punching bag for ratings. More proof of this came on Tuesday night's edition of The ReidOut when guest host Jason Johnson leveled another nasty attack on DeSantis, this time sliming the entire state of Florida and it’s people in the process.

The vile and bigoted attacks came when Johnson made his best case for why DeSantis was unelectable. "In my view, there are three states that you can't really run from if you're trying to win across America," Johnson proclaimed.

Continuing to illustrate his bizarre theory, Johnson explained: "You run from New York, you're too crazy, you're a liberal. You run from California, you're too crazy, you’re liberal, you’re trying to make sure I can’t get plastic straws. You run from Florida, it's all crystal meth and alligators. Right?"

Realizing how much he stepped in it, Johnson quickly backtracked and said he was just saying that's simply the reputation of Florida. "I mean that's what people think. I'm not saying that that's the case. I’m saying those are sort of the national reputations of those states," he said.

"So when you see Ron DeSantis running and claiming that he's going do for America what he's done in Florida, it seems like that’d be a problem," Johnson ended by saying.

So annoyed was the MRC by that description of Florida -- and so desperate was it to distance DeSantis from that reputation -- that Tim Graham spent his podcast the next day complaining about it, with Tober as his guest:

Ron DeSantis is Public Enemy #1 on the left-wing TV networks, as he stands falsely accused of ending the teaching of slavery. On The Reidout, MSNBC guest host Jason Johnson said DeSantis can't successfully run for president from Florida, which is seen as the state of "crystal meth and alligators."

Is someone confusing actual Florida with an episode of Miami Vice? Do Joy's guest hosts need to sound as crazy as Joy?

Graham returned for a Feb. 27 post whining about a bad review of DeSantis' new book:

The folks at The New York Times Book Review would like you to believe they are the nation's premier evaluators of books, fiction and nonfiction. But the evidence shows the Times evaluates political books with a reliably partisan rancor or rapture, depending on which party it is.

Take nonfiction book critic Jennifer Szalai's takedown of the new Ron DeSantis book The Courage to Be Free, headlined "Preaching Freedom, Ron DeSantis Leads By Cracking Down."

Szalai began by painting DeSantis as an insincere chameleon:


The review also mocked DeSantis for its lack of literary merit: "For the most part, The Courage to Be Free is courageously free of anything that resembles charisma, or a discernible sense of humor. While his first book was weird and esoteric enough to have obviously been written by a human, this one reads like a politician’s memoir churned out by ChatGPT."

This is a pattern at the eagerly partisan Times.

The eagerly partisan Graham offered no evidence to rebut the reviewer's take on the book.

There was plenty of lashing out at other criticism of DeSantis as well:

Even mocking obviously mockable things about DeSantis drew MRC disapproval. Mark Finkelstein huffed in a March 14 post:

MSNBC has been spewing red-hot hate of Ron DeSantis for years now. But it's gotten so silly that Joe Scarborough is now mocking the Florida governor for his throwing motion during a playing-catch interview with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade.

Scarborough squealed "wheee" no fewer 11 than times this morning during a long opening segment he devoted to mocking Ron DeSantis. He said it was worse given that he had been on the baseball team at Yale. Joe also mocked DeSantis as a "goober" for keeping his suit jacket on during the throwing session.

Super sports analyst Scarborough, playing both regular-speed and slo-mo clips slammed DeSantis's throwing motion. And each time Scarborough did so, he accompanied it with a long "whee."

Scarborough suggested that DeSantis' motion was all the worse given that he had been on the baseball team at Yale.

Finkelstein even defended DeSantis' throwing action, as someone who's doing rapid response and not "media research" would do:

Note: Rather than being whee-worthy, my analysis says that DeSantis was intentionally taking something off his throws. He appeared to be standing rather close to Kilmeade. And judging by Brian's throwing motion, he is not an accomplished ballplayer. DeSantis likely didn't want to embarrass Brian by whipping a ball at him that he couldn't handle.

Now, if you want to smirk at a truly whee-worthy throwing motion, here's then-President Obama throwing out a first pitch.

Of course Finkelstein found a way to play whataboutism -- that's an MRC rhetorical staple.

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