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The MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade: The Fallout

Following a racist massacre in Florida and amid his flailing presidential campaign, the Media Research Center was mad that Ron DeSantis' less-than-positive relations with the state's black residents keep being brought up.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/20/2023

Ron DeSantis

The Media Research Center's DeSantis Defense Brigade started off August by trying to build up his immigrant cred. Nicholas Fondacaro had a massive meltdown in an Aug. 1 post when co-hosts on "The View" questioned Ron DeSantis' immigrant credentials, which he screeched was "anti-Italian HATE" in the headline despite the fact that DeSantis' specific ethnic heritage wasn't even mentioned:
Since it’s a day that ends in “y” (Tuesday), Disney’s attack dogs on ABC’s The View were trying to savage Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. Of course, they were still pushing Vice President Kamala Harris’s BIG LIE about Florida schools teaching that slavery was a good thing, but moderator Whoopi Goldberg took a disgusting swing at the Governor by disparaging this Italian family’s immigration to the United States.

Goldberg’s anti-Italian HATE flared when she tried to engage in a bit of one-upmanship and suggest her family’s history as slaves and generations on American soil were better than his.

“And just so we're clear, we're not going anywhere! We've been here, Mr. DeSantis!” falsely suggesting he was trying to get rid of black people in America. “Many of us have been here for generations. Can you say the same?” she scoffed. She and co-host Joy Behar agreed that he couldn’t:
BEHAR: I don't think he can.

GOLDBERG: No, I don't think he can.
While Goldberg was busy becoming the nativist caricature the left paints Republicans as the fact of the matter was that DeSantis’s family has been here for generations.

According to a 2018 Tampa Bay Times hit piece trying to portray him as a hypocrite on the issue of legal and illegal immigration, DeSantis’s great-great-grandmother Luigia Colucci immigrated from Italy during the first Italian diaspora in 1917 and his great-great-grandfather “had been in the United States since 1904.”

Clearly, Goldberg’s assertion was false, his family had been in the United States for generations. It was a very anti-immigrant attack from Goldberg, but then again it was her trying to go up against someone in the left’s Grievance Olympics.

Actually, it appears Fondacaro is the one going for the gold in the Grievance Olympics by falsely accusing Goldberg of besmirching DeSantis' ethnicity.

Curtis Houck defended DeSantis' anti-abortion policies in an Aug. 7 post:

Possibly out for redemption in the eyes of her fellow liberal journalists after her infamous October 2022 interview with now-Senator John Fetterman (D-PA), NBC correspondent Dasha Burns interrupted, lied, and smeared her way through the first portion of her sit-down with 2024 GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis (FL) on Monday’s Today.

Burns not only insisted January 6 would be the central focus of the 2024 general election, but lied about abortion and brushed aside approximately 12,000 late-term abortions.


Invoking Florida’s six-week limit on abortion, she asked him whether he’d “veto any sort of federal bill that would try to put a nationwide ban in place.”

DeSantis argued he would “be a pro-life president and” back “pro-life policies,” but he “would not allow what a lot of the left wants to do, which is to override pro-life protections throughout the country all the way up really until the moment of birth, in some instances, which I think is infanticide.”

If Burns had consulted his July 18 CNN interview, she’d know the answer that, while he supports such policies, he’s seemed doubtful a divided Congress would have the appetite to go that far.

Instead, Burns looked down at her talking points to hurl lies: “Well, actually, I got to push back on you on that because that’s a misrepresentation of what’s happening. I mean, that 1.3 percent of abortions happen at 21 weeks or higher.”

The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute’s latest year of data was 2020, in which they put the number of abortions at 930,160, meaning Burns was scoffing at 12,093 babies being murdered.

Earth to Burns: Would that be an acceptable train of thought if applied to hate crimes and racially-motivated murders? Of course not.

If Houck really believes that abortion is murder, he should be loudly demanding that all 12,093 of those women be arrested and jailed, if not executed, for committing murder. But he won't take that step -- even though it's the logical endpoint of right-wing anti-abortion activism -- because it makes the movement look bad.

Houck attacked the second part of Burns' interview with DeSantis the next day for pointing out how badly DeSantis is doing in the polls:

This second part followed a segment on the liberal media’s most beloved topic in the third indictment of former President Trump with anchor Lester Holt boasting DeSantis was “still trying to make a dent in Mr. Trump’s lead” in the polls.

For her part, Burns reveled in DeSantis “predicting success despite struggling to gain traction against the Republican front-runner.”

Burns was then showed telling DeSantis he’s probably out-of-touch with the Republican Party: “Trump’s lead has only grown since you began campaigning in earnest. Like, is it possible that you’re potentially just out of step with what GOP voters are looking for right now?”

“So, if I had a nickel for every naysayer I’ve had in my life, I’d be a very, very wealthy man,” DeSantis replied.

The next part was a largely a replay of a portion from Today in which Burns fixated on having DeSantis state that Joe Biden won the 2020 election (which he did, but she didn’t like the way he said it).

Houck spent an Aug. 9 post whining that it was reported that DeSantis was trying to fix his failing campaign:

The major broadcast networks have made no secret that, above actual issues such as crime and the economy, they want voters to have Donald Trump’s criminal indictments and January 6 top of mind as they consider what matters for 2024. As such, they’ve spent roughly 335 minutes on the third indictment alone. On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, ABC and NBC cheered the changes to Governor Ron DeSantis’s (R-FL) “floundering” and “struggl[ing]” campaign.

ABC’s newscasts — World News Tonight and then Good Morning America (GMA) — used chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl to spin the change in campaign manager as if it were another sign of his campaign’s immediate death.

Importantly, Karl has a financial incentive for DeSantis and Trump’s opponents to lose given his need to hawk an upcoming anti-Trump book (on top of the two he’s already published).

“Trump’s legal troubles don’t seem to be hurting his campaign at all. In fact, his tactics seem to be working. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, once seen as the most formidable Republican challenger to Trump, is now trying to revive his floundering campaign. He replaced his campaign manager today, his third staff shakeup in a month,” Karl bragged on World News Tonight.
Houck didn't dispute the accuracy of Karl's reporting, nor did he evaluate coverage of the Republican primary on Fox News, where it might do more good beyond creating right-wing clickbait. And if the MRC doesn't want Trump to be the nominee, why does it continually defend Trump every time he gets indicted? Houck was silent on that question.

Clay Waters whined in an Aug. 14 post that PBS "Washington Week" host Jeffrey Goldberg called out DeSantis for ranting about the "Deep State," a far-right bogeyman, and that guest Laura Barron-Lopez argued that such extreme talk is causing government officials to fear for their safety and that it's "a classic tactic used by authoritarian figures, autocratic figures, to try to rally their base around them and they know exactly who they’re speaking to." Waters, of course, insisted that DeSantis was merely speaking metaphorically, then played whataboutism by falsely blaming a shooting of congressmen on Bernie Sanders:

This extreme response to DeSantis’s blunt, metaphorical rhetoric, which wasn’t directed at anyone in particular, is a bit much given the way Democrats have traditionally felt free to talk about and even attack Republicans.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has been physically attacked twice in recent years, to liberal amusement and little condemnation from the mainstream press. Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables.”


A Bernie Sanders supporter shot up a ball field of Republican congressmen in 2017. Obnoxious protests have been held outside the homes of Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsay Graham, not to mention conservative justices of the Supreme Court. Would Goldberg like to discuss the man arrested on his way to assassinating Justice Kavanaugh?

Kevin Tober found the idea of context useful in defending DeSantis in an Aug. 20 post:

Former Virginia Attorney General and founder of the DeSantis-aligned Super PAC Never Back Down, Ken Cuccinelli confronted CNN's State of the Union fill-in anchor for deceptively editing comments made by Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis during an interview with the Florida Standard to make it seem like he called Trump supporters "listless vessels." Regardless of whom you support for the Republican nomination, everyone should be outraged at the media lying about one of the Republican candidates.

Setting up the dishonest clip, Hunt insisted "There was a pretty interesting moment in a recent interview where Governor DeSantis talked about Trump supporters. He used the words listless vessels."

Cuccinelli jumped in to correct her: "He wasn’t talking about Trump supporters!"

Tober was in full DeSantis PR mode, touting "the full transcript from this portion of the DeSantis interview which was sent to members of the media through a press release from the DeSantis campaign," then concluding: "Luckily readers don't have to go find the transcript online since it was provided here at NewsBusters! Share this article with your friends and family so they aren't tricked by liberal media hacks like CNN's Kasie Hunt!" Tober didn't mention how much the DeSantis campaign paid him for this PR job.

Racist massacre

The DeSantis Defense Brigade was an aggressive defender of educational standards imposed on Florida by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and it just couldn't stop doing so. Alex Christy spent an Aug. 15 post complaining that critical race theory is a high-level concept that isn't taught in high schools, making DeSantis' claim that he banned CRT in Florida school to be inaccurate, because certain things that might be part of CRT might get sneaked in:

Even if one were to accept [PolitiFact researcher Samantha] Putterman’s arguments as true, it is possible Florida wanted to preemptively guard against the insertion of CRT into K-12 education as its ideas have escaped academia and started infecting Corporate America’s diversity training and corporate social responsibility campaigns.

Second, just because a teacher isn’t mandating that students read Kimberlé Crenshaw doesn’t mean that CRT isn’t woven into the curriculum. If the assumption is that “systemic racism” is the explanation for every racial statistical disparity in America, then CRT is part of the curriculum or teacher training programs whether it is explicitly named or not.


That it isn’t a fact-check, it’s an opinion-check. The law says what it says and DeSantis’s summation of it was accurate.

Christy didn't explain why you can't fact-check someone's opinion. In an Aug. 19 post, Brad Wilmouth complained that it was pointed out how teaching of black history had to include examples of black-on-white violence:

After a brief clip of Governor DeSantis declaring that "These are the most robust standards in African American history," [CNN correspondent Carlos] Suarez continued:
Last month, the state's board of education approved new standards for teaching black history in order to comply with, quote, "anti-woke policies" led by Governor Ron DeSantis that limit how race is discussed in schools and businesses. The board now requires that events like the Ocoee massacre to be taught as, quote, "acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans" -- a distinction historian Dr. Marvin Dunn says is wrong.
Then came a soundbite of Dr. Marvin Dunn: "There was no black-on-white racial violence in Ocoee. The state of Florida requires teachers to teach that lie."

But if one looks at the actual text of the new standards, it doesn't exactly say that there was black violence in the Ocoee incident. Rather, it lists several examples of anti-black violence, including Ocoee, and generally states that examples of both black on white violence should be included, which could have been referring more to the other incidents.

For example, in the Tulsa killings from 1921, one-third of the official death toll consisted of whites, some of whom allegedly were among the first to be killed in the initial skirmish.

Given DeSantis' overall unfriendliness to black people, it was probably unsurprising when, after a shooter targeted black people at a store in Jacksonville and killed three, there was criticism of DeSantis and his education standards. Wilmouth complained this was brought up in an Aug. 28 post:

In the aftermath of a racially motivated murder spree in Jacksonville, Florida, CNN host Fredricka Whitfield on Sunday afternoon allowed two of her guests to try to push blame onto Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) while discussing the killings.

At about 2:20 p.m. Eastern, the CNN host gave no pushback when her guest, Wisdom Cole of the NAACP Youth and College Division, charged that Governor DeSantis has "waged war on black America."

Whitfield threw a softball, just asking for deep thoughts: "What are your thoughts today, especially after hearing even more details about how the suspect targeted black people, left behind evidence that he hated them, and even with swastikas on his guns?"

Wilmouth huffed that later guest Van Jones "accused Governor DeSantis of being opposed to teaching black history," which Wilmouth made no effort to rebut.

The more DeSantis was discussed in relation to the mass shooting, the angrier the MRC got. Curtis Houck raged in another Aug. 28 post under the headline "UGLY SMEAR":

On Monday’s Today, NBC’s Florida-based correspondent (and incoming White House correspondent) Gabe Gutierrez again targeted 2024 GOP presidential candidate and Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) by ghoulishly tying DeSantis and his administration’s African-American history standards to the racist mass shooter who killed three Saturday at a Jacksonville Dollar General in a predominantly-black neighborhood.

NBC was the lone network to invoke DeSantis in their Monday morning coverage of the racially-motivated killings. Gutierrez at least made the pivot with a portion of DeSantis remarks at a vigil: “What he did is totally unacceptable in the state of Florida.”

Gutierrez chimed in that while DeSantis also said he would ensure the state would “provide more security to Florida HBCUs,” but he then boasted that DeSantis “fac[ed] boos from the crowd.”

Kevin Tober joined the Defense Brigade with his own Aug. 28 post:

On MSNBC’s The ReidOut, host Joy Reid and guest Bishop William Barber took turns smearing Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) by accusing him of causing the racist shooting that took place at DollarTree in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday. The duo even suggested DeSantis is akin to racist Alabama Governor George Wallace and that he was inspired by the horrific Jacksonville riots in 1960.

“There is a history of governors, of southern governors stoking racial hatred and animus, specifically directed at black people, and then the results are reaped in black communities,” Reid proclaimed.


Barber continued smearing DeSantis: "This is more blood on his hands because he even passed his policies" that "enable poverty, enable the lack of health care."

"He's saying basically, I want to be like George Wallace, southern governors and others who pushed hate. It was the playbook of the southern strategy, Richard Nixon used it, Ronald Reagan, Bush, Trump to a greater degree," Barber added.

Barber ended by outright claiming that DeSantis's educational reforms have directly led to the racist shooter targeting a black college: "Think about it, the shooter first went to a historically black college university that represents the very thing DeSantis and others have been saying we have to resist, that is dangerous to us."

Tober made no attempt to rebut any of these claims.

Christy was the designated defender in an Aug. 29 post:

In the aftermath of the racist shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, that left three dead, the Monday editions of CNN Tonight and MSNBC’s The 11th Hour both claimed to know who was, at least partially, at fault: Gov. Ron DeSantis.

On CNN, host Laura Coates recalled Sunday’s demonstrations marking the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington and its aftermath by introducing a clip of President Biden proclaiming, “We can't let hate prevail. And it's on the rise. It's not diminished... And we have to speak out that there's a whole group of extreme people trying to erase history.”

Nobody’s erasing history, but Coates rolled right along by introducing Prof. Michael Eric Dyson and asking him, “I've been thinking about you a lot when it comes to moments like this and I ask you to take a step back with me for a moment. How do you see the confluence of all of these events?”


How is DeSantis “fueling and feeding” hatred towards black people? Dyson never said, presumably he meant the same false depiction of Florida’s history standards that was shown in the Biden clip.

When DeSantis tried to act macho and insult the shooter, Christy defended that too:

In the aftermath of the racially-motivated shooting in Jacksonville the media has disgustingly attempted to tie Gov. Ron DeSantis to the shooting that left three black people dead, but Tuesday’s Andrea Mitchell Reports took matters to a whole new level as Mitchell and correspondent Trymaine Lee attacked him for calling the shooter a “scumbag.”

Mitchell recalled “yesterday, Governor DeSantis, in Florida, facing audible boos at a Jacksonville vigil for the three victims. At the vigil, DeSantis called the gunman a scumbag and Jeffrey Rumlin, a Jacksonville pastor who spoke after DeSantis, was very direct in his response. He said ‘at the end of the day, respectfully, governor, he was not a scumbag, he was a racist.’”

She then asked Lee “what’s your response to that?” to which he replied by condemning DeSantis for not smearing the entire country as a hotbed of white supremacy, “You know, for so many folks, the issue with that language is it places the onus on one individual and the actions of one individual as opposed to a nationwide sickness of white supremacy in the country and the violence it fuels.”


If Lee truly believes the “true issue” is that the country is that everyone who disagrees with him is a white supremacist that says more about him than it does DeSantis.

Curtis Houck grumbled about all this as well:

The Associated Press and reporters Steve Peoples and Brendan Farrington took their place in a hypothetical Scumbag Hall of Fame on Tuesday as they blamed 2024 GOP presidential candidate and Governor Ron DeSantis (FL) for Saturday’s racist murders by a white young-adult male in Jacksonville.

Naturally, Peoples and Farrington offered no evidence except to suggest a causation between the far-left NAACP’s travel warning to black people (all but encouraging them to avoid the Sunshine State), DeSantis’s fight against the wokeism, sexual indoctrination, and support for the Second Amendment, and the Jacksonville attack.


The cowards then ran to far-left pastor Jeffrey Rumlin of predominantly African-American Dayspring Church to argue “DeSantis has created and pushed a narrative of division and hate that is anti-Black” and the governor was thus implicitly okay with the murders because he “call[ed] the shooter ‘a major-league scumbag’” instead of “racist”.

Houck complained that it was pointed out that Republicans generally don't feel the need to cater to black voters:

Following asides on DeSantis’s fellow competitors in Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, Peoples and Farrington claimed without evidence that “Republicans have little political incentive to appeal to voters of color — in the primary phase of the presidential campaign, at least.”

Refusing to note things like the almost-holy-to-liberals 1619 Project and buzzwords about white privilege are filled with lies and meant to make children hate themselves, they huffed how a Pew poll showed Republicans aren’t keen on fixating on race and refuse to believe race relations are porous with little having changed from our country’s ugly past.

Clay Waters then came up to bat in yet another Aug. 29 post:

On Monday nights, the PBS NewsHour brings on NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith and political prognosticator Amy Walter. Walter was out for this Monday’s edition, so PBS turned to Errin Haines, editor at large of The 19th news nonprofit, was invited onto of the tax-funded PBS NewsHour to spread disgusting smears of prominent Republican presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.


[Host Amna] Nawaz naturally brought up the booing DeSantis got from black Floridians at a vigil in Jacksonville, Florida, after a racially motivated white man killed three black people.


In disgusting fashion, Haines held DeSantis “at least partly responsible” for the racist murders for his stands against woke propaganda in state education.

Waters attacked Nawaz again for more criticism of DeSantis in an Aug. 31 post:

On Tuesday's PBS NewsHour show, host Amna Nawaz was still fixated on promoting the views of liberals who try to blame Governor Ron DeSantis for a racist shooting spree in Jacksonville, Florida as the PBS host interviewed the mayor of the city, Donna Deegan, an elected Democrat.

After spending time discussing Hurricane Idalia's threat to Florida, Nawaz turned her attention to the hate crime in which four black Florida residents were murdered. She began by reflexively bringing up the issue of gun control:


After Mayor Deegan responded by complaining about divisive rhetoric, but then also gave Governor DeSantis credit for attending the funeral for the shooting victims, Nawaz followed up by bringing up the issue of whether Confederate statues should be taken down in Jacksonville.

Waters used a Sept. 2 post to bash the New York Times for reporting on the controversy:

Wednesday’s edition of the New York Times featured “After Jacksonville, Tensions Flare Between DeSantis and Black Floridians,” by reporters Nicholas Nehamas (who previously mocked DeSantis’s debating skills) and Maya King. It’s the latest Times racial smear of Florida’s conservative governor and Republican presidential candidate, who they're suggesting was "an example of racism in policymaking."


After rehashing the media-inspired brouhaha over a single line about slavery in a course on African-American studies, the reporters delved deeper to make a sinister connection.
As a young man, Mr. DeSantis taught American history at a private boarding school in Georgia. There, The New York Times previously reported, some students said he offered lessons on the Civil War that seemed slanted, factually wrong and sometimes presented in ways that sounded like attempts to justify slavery.

On the campaign trail, Mr. DeSantis has leaned on his record leading Florida, particularly his “war on woke,” which seeks to eliminate liberal viewpoints on race and gender from many parts of public life....
Yes, because public life was absolutely starved of “liberal viewpoints on race and gender.”

Christy returned for a Sept. 2 post lashing out at more criticism of DeSantis' race relations:

Not only did Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart tell the Friday edition of PBS NewsHour that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has nobody to blame, but himself for being booed in the aftermath of the Jacksonville shooting, but that DeSantis’s policies sent a signal to those who believe “Black people are inferior and therefore are worthy of extermination.”

At the end of a larger conversation about guns and gun control, Capehart put forth an addendum, “We can't talk about Jacksonville without talking about the political environment around Black people and particularly around Black history in Florida.”

Capehart also insisted that, “There is a reason Governor DeSantis was booed when he did the right thing by going to the community, but the community booed him for a reason, his so-called anti-woke legislation, what's happening with the teaching of Black history in Florida public schools.”

Alternatively, maybe the reason is because Capehart and his fellow media talking heads and activists keep deliberately spreading misinformation about what exactly it is Florida’s new history standards say.

Remember, framing those standards in a way to show that DeSantis can do no wrong is a key function of the Defense Brigade.

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