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The MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade: Failure to Launch

The Media Research Center labored hard to spin away the botched Twitter-hosted beginning of Ron DeSantis' presidential campaign, as well as defending him after the NAACP issued a travel warning for Florida.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/27/2023

Ron DeSantis

The Media Research Center was in full DeSantis Defense Brigade mode days before Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was to officially announce his presidential campaign on Twitter -- despite the fact that there was little that actually needed to be defended. In a May 14 post, Mark Finkelstein complained that "Rick Wilson of the disgraced Lincoln Project" besmirched Ron DeSantis' chances in a presidential race, and took particular offense to a prediction of how Donald Trump will treat him:
Wilson began by attacking DeSantis's personality, claiming that he "doesn't like humans, has to pretend to be human." He insisted DeSantis has a "mean streak." Yes, Rick Wilson said that, without any introspection about his own behavior.

In contrast, despite being sure to get on record that he dislikes everything about Trump, Wilson argued Trump does have "charisma" and "energy."

In a particularly gruesome metaphor, Wilson then predicted that in a debate, Trump would "tear Ron DeSantis's head off and kick it around like a soccer ball."

Again, this could well just be Wilson trying to tear down DeSantis because he and the Dems see him as the biggest threat to Biden.

Note: Imagining DeSantis's head being torn off and kicked around is in keeping with Wilson's creepy penchant for violent fantasies about Republicans.

On the day before DeSantis' campaign was to launch his campaign in an Twitter event, on May 23, Finkelstein returned to defend both DeSantis and Musk:

Morning Joe was on brand as a daily DNC messaging board. There wasn't a positive word on tonight's anticipated Ron DeSantis campaign announcement on Twitter this evening with Elon Musk. From Mika Brezinski to Jonathan Lemire, Willie Geist, Katty Kay, and Elise Jordan, all expressed their energetic reservations and criticism of the DeSantis strategy.

Sykes also mocked DeSantis for somehow going "all in on Elon" and described Musk as displaying "brain worms"—whatever that means.


Sykes did see one upside to DeSantis making his announcement with Musk, claiming that it will "throw a certain amount of chaos into MAGA world."

One thing Sykes failed to mention was the contrast in announcement styles between DeSantis and Biden. When the latter announced his re-election bid, he did so via a carefully scripted and produced video. No live speech in which Biden's inevitable fumbles would be on full display. In contrast, DeSantis will reportedly be doing a live chat with Musk: no training wheels necessary!

Finkelstein also complained that Sykes said DeSantis was "bowing the knee to a tech oligarch, somebody who has been very publicly decompensating, an erratic narcissistic megalomaniac like Elon Musk."

Curtis Houck tried to pre-frame criticism of DeSantis' launch plans in a post on May 24, the day of the launch. It was headlined "They're Terrified," with a particular obsession about the Trump-related books the correspondents had written:

On Wednesday morning ahead of Governor Ron DeSantis’s (R-FL) 2024 presidential announcement with Twitter owner Elon Musk, the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC lambasted DeSantis from the left and touted former President Trump’s attacks, all in an attempt to bury DeSantis before he officially enters the race.

CBS chief campaign and elections correspondent Robert Costa — whose stock rose culminated in a book with Bob Woodward — painted a picture on CBS Mornings that DeSantis’s campaign is already on death’s door: “Our latest polling shows Governor DeSantis trailing former President Donald Trump by more than 30 points. The question now is can he close that gap. But doing so will not be easy.”


Over on Disney-owned ABC, Good Morning America had chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl on the case.

Karl — who cashed in on the Trump hysteria with two New York Times bestsellers about Trump (here and here) and recently announced plans for a third — made sure to downplay DeSantis’s unique launch: “But DeSantis’s campaign team says the official statement will come with an audio-only discussion on Twitter with Elon Musk. The first campaign appearance not planned until next week[.]”

Noting DeSantis has already made stops in early-voting states, Karl jabbed the Florida governor as having spent time in Iowa and New Hampshire “trying the person-to-person campaigning he is not known for” and, on a trip overseas, “he awkwardly avoided questions about running for president.”

Likely fearful of losing his money spigot, Karl again attacked: “His challenge now is to try to find a way to beat Trump without alienating Trump supporters. In his first campaign for governor, DeSantis ran as a clone of Donald Trump.”

Karl even closed with the Trump team’s response and how “Trump has already spent millions of dollars on television ads attacking DeSantis” to the point of “having spent more money attacking DeSantis than they spent in the entire 2022 midterm cycle supporting Republican congressional candidates.”

Nicholas Fondacaro had his daily meltdown over "The View" in another pre-announcement post, unable to comprehend that Whoopi Goldberg was joking when she suggested that an image of DeSantis in a teaser video shot almost entirely from behind was a body double, then ranted at her further:

She even had a Luddite moment and shared her irritation that DeSantis was going to announce his campaign via Twitter. “And look, you know what, this idea of announcing on Twitter, I’m – I'm old and I'm okay being old, do that on television. Okay?” she shouted. “I want to see you do it on television. I want to see you actually take real Americans' questions. That's what I want.”

Goldberg’s comments spiraled into the unhinged as she stoked the audience’s hatred of DeSantis, suggesting he “dislike[d] people of color.” She even seemed to threaten him, saying “gay folks” would rise up and come for him:

Then in a podcast recorded before the actual Twitter event, this was all rehashed, with the help of Fondacaro.

The MRC also published a May 24 column by Ben Shapiro headlined "Will Elon Musk Break the Legacy Media Stranglehold?" in which he crowed that DeSantis’ decision to launch his campaign on Twitter "represents yet another blow to the power of the legacy media." He concluded by gushing further: "Conservatives no longer need the approval of reporters at The New York Times. They no longer need to suffer the indignities of skewed grilling at the hands of partisan hacks who work for the alphabet networks. Times have changed. And DeSantis’ Twitter launch is just the latest evidence." What that actually means, of course, is that Shapiro and other Republicans don't want their candidates to face any scrutiny outside the right-wing bubble, even though they must eventually face voters who don't live there.

The launch, however, turned out to be a mess -- the Twitter Spaces server that was to host it crashed repeatedly, and DeSantis gave served up rote right-wing talking points instead of having any sort of real conversation with voters. Which means the MRC had to seriously spin the disaster away the next day. First up was Alex Christy, who complained that DeSantis was fact-checked, first serving up the thoughtcrime-esque claim that teachers are teaching critical race theory even if they don't know they are:

How many PolitiFact fact-checkers does it take to fact-check a presidential announcement? Apparently four, as that is how many reporters it took to assess seven statements from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Wednesday campaign launch on Twitter Spaces.

The first claim the intrepid quartet checked was “We eliminated critical race theory from our K through 12 schools.”

PolitiFact responded by claiming Critical Race Theory is a non-controversy, “University of Missouri education professor LaGarrett King previously told us that the problem is blown out of proportion. ‘The majority of teachers are not even familiar with what critical race theory is, nor do they teach it in their classrooms,’ King said.”

That doesn’t debunk DeSantis at all. It doesn’t matter if the majority of teachers are unfamiliar with CRT, because that ignores that one does not need to use the literal words “Critical Race Theory” to teach its worldview and that there is more to schools than what goes on in classroom, such as teacher trainings.

Christy then baselessly ranted that anyone in the military who defends President Biden's miliary policies is by definition "Democratic" and that "wokeness" is a barrier to recruitment despite the fact that nobody can actually identify anyone dissuaded from joining because it was too "woke":

In non-education policy, DeSantis argued “Biden’s politicized the military and caused recruiting to plummet.”

Fact-checkers have used Democratic service secretaries to fact-check Republicans on military matters before, but PolitiFact did it again, citing Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, “wokeness in the military or the COVID vaccine mandate, for example, those were relatively low on the list of barriers to service.”

A low barrier is still a barrier.

Curtis Houck grumbled that the eminently newsworthy failures at DeSantis' launch were treated as news by news organizations:

On Thursday morning, the major broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC were ebullient at the initial technical failures of Twitter Spaces for Governor Ron DeSantis’s (R-FL) 2024 presidential campaign announcement, seeking to kill DeSantis’s campaign and clear the GOP field.

Over five different segments, they barely touched on what DeSantis said and instead reveled in the “mess” that was “roundly mocked” and was a sign of “rough...waters” for his campaign against Donald Trump, who “[had] a field day.”

NBC’s Today was brutal. Co-host Hoda Kotb bragged in a tease of a “[r]ough rollout,” “troubled launch,” and “chaotic start to the Ron DeSantis presidential campaign, marred by technical glitches on Twitter.”

She added ahead of the first report that the server issues with Twitter left “the campaign scrambling on day one.”


Over on the Disney-owned ABC, there was never any doubt as to whether Good Morning America would join in.

After co-host and former Clinton official George Stephanopoulos described the launch as “marred” and “riddled with technical difficulties,” chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl conceded DeSantis is “the most formidable Republican challenger to Donald Trump” with some “advantages.”

Aside from that, it was more of the same.


Socialist CBS Mornings co-host Tony Dokoupil came with jokes: “[I]t was billed as a great American comeback, those are the words of Ron DeSantis and you could set your clock by it, but you could not set your clock by that Twitter event.”
Note that Houck did not criticize Musk for the botched launch, though it was arguably his fault that Twitter was not robust enough to handle the launch's traffic. (Houck has irrelevantly decided that Dokoupil is a "socialist" solely because he once did a news report a few years back on income inequality. Really. That's it.)

Houck also didn't disclose his personal interest in DeSantis' candidacy. The day before the launch, he gushed about it on his Twitter account: "Great move making the announcement with @ElonMusk. Heads on all sides will explode." he also took place in a launch-related event the day of the announcement, which he also touted: "The great folks at @FLVoiceNews (led by @BrendonLeslie) are doing a Twitter Spaces after @RonDeSantis's 2024 announcement with @ElonMusk. I'll be joining the action -- lots to discuss!"

Kevin Tober was also on cleanup patrol -- this time for his fellow right-wing writers as well as DeSantis:

On Wednesday, Florida Republican governor Ron DeSantis made his long-awaited presidential campaign announcement during a Twitter space with Elon Musk followed by numerous appearances on cable news and radio. Later on Wednesday evening, DeSantis held a call with members of conservative media where they asked the governor questions about how he’ll beat Donald Trump and what he’ll do if he’s elected President.

The call which was helpfully transcribed by Mediaite showed leftwing propagandists like The View’s Alyssa Farah Griffin and Puck News’s Tara Palmeri were wrong about DeSantis hiding from the press or simply only speaking to “friendly press” since the call with conservative reporters frequently challenged the governor on a wide range of issues.

DeSantis kicked off the call by addressing the elephant in the room which was the Twitter space that crashed a few times during his announcement event with Musk: “We are at a internet-breaking start with Elon Musk. You know, he offered me the ability to do either a SpaceX rocket or Twitter. I just figured Twitter would be safer. Turns out that we had too many people that tried to join. So in some respects, you know, that’s a that’s a good sign.”

Despite not citing any actual challenging questions -- in fact, most were softballs and not very probing at all -- Tober insisted this was nevertheless a victory for right-wing media:

This call shows that conservative media by and large can be trusted to hold their own side’s feet to the fire and ask probing questions.

That’s not something you see from reporters on the left who simply give their favorite candidates and politicians a foot massage.

Only in Tober's right-wing bubble can Farah Griffin -- whom the MRC irrationally hates -- be considered a "leftwing propagandist." And the fact remains that DeSantis still didn't talk to anyone who wasn't from a right-wing media outlet, which suggests that he is, in fact, highly reluctant to venture beyond a "friendly press."

Days after that botched launch, it was still salty about it. Clay Waters complained in a May 30 post:

As the only network morning show Tuesday to cover the 2024 campaign, ABC’s Good Morning America again did the bidding of parent company Disney by bashing Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Unsurprisingly, they continuing to fixate five days later on the bandwidth issues with his 2024 presidential campaign launch on Twitter, whined his interviews have been with conservative talk radio hots, and painted him as one of many top-line candidates.


Chief Washington correspondent and lucrative Trump author Jonathan Karl noted Tuesday marks the start of a four-day tour for DeSantis through the first three voting states (Iowa, New Hampshire, then South Carolina) before throwing jabs.

“The announcement was plagued with technical difficulties, but DeSantis — the DeSantis team claims that they raised more than $8 million just on the first day,” Karl whined, seeming to be one of the few still obsessed with the less-than-ideal launch and questioning the veracity of Team DeSantis’s fundraising claims.

Karl again poo-pooed DeSantis for not having “actually interacted with voters since he announced he was running for president last week” and, when it comes to interviews, he bemoaned the Florida governor did “a flurry of” them, but mostly “with conservative talk shows.”

One word for Karl and the liberal forlorn DeSantis won’t appear on their airwaves for what would be a trap: Cope.

Waters offered no evidence that ABC "did the bidding" of Disney by reporting on DeSantis. He came more aggressively to DeSantis' defense in a post the next day:

PBS reporter Lisa Desjardins gave Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis a chilly welcome to the 2024 presidential race on Wednesday, before his Twitter-hosted interview with Twitter owner Elon Musk.

Desjardins included positive details about the new candidate, standard practice when introducing new candidates. But she poisoned the paragraph with the unsubstantiated allegation that DeSantis oversaw “beatings and forced feedings of prisoners” while stationed at Guantanamo Bay, complete with a still of an article making the allegation:


Desjardins tapped into the lazy media smear of DeSantis sacrificing Floridians with irresponsible Covid policy in the name of business:


The voiceover was accompanied by two shots: a grim hospital scene cutting to two women dining alfresco, a huge margarita on the table between them -- as if people were dying in Florida just so people could go out and drink?

And “wave of deaths” compared to what? Florida did permit its residents to get back to their livelihoods quickly, yet three years later the state’s pandemic toll trails that of long-shuttered New York, even though then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo was praised for his authoritarian handling of Covid. Florida’s numbers look especially good when one considers the state’s disproportionately aged population.

In fact, Florida's COVID death rate is higher than that of New York and the 18th highest in the country.

NAACP travel warning

When it wasn't aggressively pretending that his presidential campaign launch on Twitter wasn't utterly botched, the Media Research Center kept its DeSantis Defense Brigade deployed for its usual functions during the month of May. When the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Florida in part because of DeSantis "aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools," the Defense Brigade assembled yet again. Nicholas Fondacaro ranted in a May 22 post:

Ahead of the Memorial Day weekend on Saturday, the far-left race-baiting fear-mongers at the NAACP issued a so-called “travel advisory” for the State of Florida and falsely claimed the state was “openly hostile toward African Americans.” Seemingly afraid of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s capabilities in the GOP presidential primaries, the flagship newscasts of ABC and NBC took the fake and politically driven “travel advisory” and broadcasted it into American homes Sunday night and Monday morning.

During Sunday’s World News Tonight, ABC fill-in anchor Lindsey Davis direly announced: “The NAACP is issuing a formal travel advisory for Florida, saying the state has become hostile to black Americans under Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.”

“Other civil rights groups have issued similar warnings in recent weeks,” she added, to add credence to the factitious advisory. She said this with the on-screen headline reading "NAACP Issue Flroida Travel WARNING" (pictured above)

Without any mention of the NAACP’s political affiliations and historic use of fear tactics to drum up support, correspondent Jay O’Brien boosted their accusations that Florida was not a safe place to visit or live if you’re a minority:

The same day, Kevin Tober declared without evidence that the travel warning was "fake" and "politically motivated," whining that a CBS correspondent "labeled DeSantis’s policies to protect children from being taught inappropriate topics in school a 'conservative crackdown,' and proclaimed that 'DeSantis has stirred both content and contempt, blocking a high school AP course in African American studies, also in schools, bans on teaching gender identity, sexual identity, and Critical Race Theory, and a ban on abortion after six weeks.'" He concluded by huffing that CBS was trying to "keep the left’s racism narrative alive" by reporting on "a racial smear campaign against the state of Florida."

Fondacaro returned to whine about the advisory again in a May 23 post:

Following the overwrought coverage from CBS Evening News the previous night, CBS Mornings co-anchor Gayle King clutched her pearls on Tuesday over the NAACP’s ridiculous and false travel advisory for black Americans, which told them to steer clear of Florida because the state was “openly hostile” to minorities. King feared for her two sisters who lived in the state and was beside herself with concern for the black folks who called the state home.

“The NAACP has issued a travel advisory for Florida,” King announced as if the far-left race baiters didn’t have a political motive. “It says the state is, quote, ‘openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals’ due to a series of measures recently signed by [Republican] Governor Ron DeSantis” (The same DeSantis who was reportedly getting ready to launch a presidential bid later this week).

Trying to lend credence to the warning, she added that the NAACP was “not the first civil rights group that issues this kind of warning, which comes as DeSantis prepares for a presidential run. Equality Florida and the League of United Latin American Citizens have also issued warnings.”

Actually, wouldn't the fact that other groups have issued similar warnings mean that the NAACP is likely not acting with a political motive? Meanwhile, of course, Fondacaro is very much acting with a political motive in his defense of DeSantis.

When White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about it at a press briefing, Curtis Houck whined that reporter April Ryan, who asked about the "faux" travel advisory, "is always carrying water for the far-left Black organizations." He concluded by whining further that Jean-Pierre "finally wrapped with a helpful reminder for DeSantis and Florida Republicans, promising the White House would remain 'outspoken' against DeSantis and Florida Republicans because '[t]hat's what we believe it is our duty to do here.'" As if the White House has never criticized anyone from the opposite party before.

Meanwhile, any perceived criticism was attacked as usual:

The MRC is also trying to build a narrative that because ABC is owned by Disney, any negative coverage it does regarding DeSantis had to have been ordered by Disney management -- never mind that it has never provided any evidence that this is true. Thus, we have Curtis Houck huffing in a May 16 post:

Disney returned Tuesday to use its broadcast network ABC and Good Morning America to throw another childish tantrum over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s (R) conservative agenda driving a stake through the heart of wokeism. This time, the Disney-owned outfit bemoaned DeSantis signing into law a bill to defund Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs from public colleges and universities.

Houck also declared that "When Disney needs ABC to do them a solid, they do it" -- again, without providing actual proof of this other than its previous complaints that ABC's coverage of DeSantis is too negative.

Alex Christy defended DeSantis from another Disney-related controversy in a May 19 post:

Friday’s editions of CBS Mornings and NBC’s Today hyped Disney’s Thursday announcement that they are cancelling a billion-dollar office complex project in Florida as the sort of thing that naturally happens when Gov. Ron DeSantis decides to pick a fight with them. Neither network gave much thought to the possibility that DeSantis had little or nothing to do with the decision.


As for Disney-affiliated ABC and Good Morning America, they lumped the news into a larger preview of DeSantis as he prepares to launch his presidential campaign with brief summations of D’Amaro and DeSantis’s press team's responses.

Christy really had to struggle to force a Disney reference in his post, since he couldn't find a way to portray ABC's reporting as negative.

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