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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.