ConWebWatch home
ConWebBlog: the weblog of ConWebWatch
Search and browse through the ConWebWatch archive
About ConWebWatch
Who's behind the news sites that ConWebWatch watches?
Letters to and from ConWebWatch
ConWebWatch Links
Buy books and more through ConWebWatch

The MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade: Pudding Patrol

There is apparently no accusation so minor that the Media Research Center won't defend Ron DeSantis against -- even a claim that he eats pudding with his fingers.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/4/2023

Ron DeSantis

How doggedly dedicated is the Media Research Center's DeSantis Defense Brigade to act like Ron DeSantis was personally paying them to defend him against any and all criticism? It issued a full-court press on a controversy involving ... pudding. Curtis Houck complained in a March 16 post:
The Daily Beast offered a reminder Thursday of how there’s no bottom to their juvenile but slimy reporting as reporters Jake Lahut and former conservative-turned-real-life-Randall Zachary Petrizzo offered an audition for the grocery store tabloids in “The GOP Campaign Trail Is Already Getting DeSantis-Proofed.” The big scoop? Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) isn’t a social butterfly and allegedly ate a cup of pudding with his fingers.

The big find came near the end of the 1300-plus-word hit piece, insisting “[t]he chatter over DeSantis’ public engagement has also surfaced past unflattering stories about his social skills—particularly, his propensity to devour food during meetings.”

They then cited “a former DeSantis staffer” (who’s likely rather disgruntled) that claimed DeSantis “would sit in meetings and eat in front of people” as if he were a “starving animal who has never eaten before... getting shit everywhere.”


The rest of the piece reads like it belongs in the warped dreams of someone like Joy Reid or Tommy Vietor or Bulwark fan fiction, built on anonymous sources insisting they’re important to DeSantis’s 2024 chances.

Houck -- who is acting in a very juvenile and slimy manner in comparing Petrizzo to a character from the cartoon "Recess" -- is very bitter about writers who, unlike him, have escaped the right-wing bubble to produce real journalism instead of partisan hackery and, thus ,feels he must personally insult them (CNN's Oliver Darcy is another target). Still, Houck insisted that the sources with "grievances" were the problem, not himself or DeSantis, accusing one source of "channeling their inner Mean Girl" even though Mean Girl tactics (which ConWebWatch calls Heathering) are a common MRC strategy.

Houck took Pudding-gate into a second day by continuing to whine about it being covered:

The liberal media have been pulling out all the stops with pointless mud-slinging against Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL). On Thursday, the ever-juvenile Daily Beast penned what they thought would be a direct hit against DeSantis's hypothetical 2024 chances by alleging he’s socially awkward and one time used three fingers to get a lick of pudding.

Also on Thursday, New York Magazine huffed at this horror as and joked it could impale his campaign. And at Puck News, Tara Palmeri claimed “some” are “wondering if on Ozempic, the diabetes-turned-weight-loss drug” because of said media-driven reputation around his love of food.

New York Magazine Intelligencer section editor Margaret Hartmann had the duty of beclowning herself in “Ron DeSantis Eating Pudding With His Fingers Will End His 2024 Bid.”

Quipping that “[p]oliticians should really consider only taking in sustenance alone in a darkened room, just to be safe,” Hartmann boasted DeSantis was “hit with a food-related accusation so weird it may end his 2024 presidential bid before it officially starts.”

It was Alex Christy's turn to complain that Pudding-gate was being talked about in a March 18 post:

MSNBC’s Joy Reid has discovered another scandal plaguing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday’s edition of The ReidOut. Not only does DeSantis eat pudding with his fingers, he is also short. Meanwhile, the Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson stuck to the classic DeSantis fake scandals as he falsely accused DeSantis of trying to ban books about Rosa Parks and Hank Aaron.

After Wilson claimed that DeSantis lacks the charisma to win a presidential election, Reid turned to Democratic strategist Don Calloway to talk about the pudding scandal, “put up three fingers and be like ‘save me some pudding ‘cause I got three fingers right all ready to grub’ That's so gross, though. That's just nasty.”

For good measure, Christy defended DeSantis over charges that his attacks on education in Florida led to a book about Hank Aaron being banned:

Nobody’s banning books about Hank Aaron. As for Parks, what Wilson is referring to is a New York Times report about a textbook that was submitted for review. What Wilson didn’t say was the publisher did this because of what they thought was needed in Florida, not what was actually required. Additionally, the Times itself said “It’s unclear which of the new versions was officially submitted for review” and the book was rejected for unrelated, bureaucratic reasons.

Christy returned to DeSantis pudding defense in a May 19 post:

MSNBC's All In host Chris Hayes lamented on Thursday that when people think of authoritarians, they tend to think of people like Stalin or Mussoulini [sic] and not “Mr. Pudding Fingers” because for Hayes, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s education, abortion, Disney, and drag show policies are all hallmarks of “authoritarianism.” However, the worst bit of so-called authoritarianism to come out DeSantis’s Florida is that parents will no longer be able to give their kids “gender-affirming care.”

Christy didn't belabor the pudding point further.

Of course, part of being a member of the DeSantis Defense Brigade is that you are obligated to lash out at any criticism of Ron DeSantis, no matter how minor or throwaway the line is. Tim Graham served up a name-calling whine in a Feb. 28 post huffing that the "leftists" at NPR quoted a Florida student who likened DeSantis to Fidel Castro, then whining further: "This is how the Left puts out misinformation about anyone trying to check leftist activism and propaganda on campus. They want colleges to sound just as one-sided as NPR does. State-run radio is statist to the core."

Tierin-Rose Mandelburg ranted in a March 9 post about another remark directed at DeSantis:

Everyone knows that Ron DeSantis doesn’t support kids reading about sex, gender surgeries or porn in elementary school...celebs need to get over it already.

The latest attack on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ (R) anti-porn for kids policies came from ABC’s "General Hospital" actress, Nancy Lee Grahn, who compared DeSantis to the late, genocidal German dictator Adolf Hitler. As a matter of fact, Grahn claimed that DeSantis “will end up making Hitler seem nice.”


These books are disgusting and have no place being in schools or around children whatsoever. But leave it to a freakin' celeb to get out of her own lane and put her two-sense in.

Mandelburg added: "This chick really just likes insulting people she doesn’t agree with. She needs to get a life." She didn't mention that her employer is eager to go Godwin on people it doesn't like, and is particularly fond of smearing those who fact-check conservatives online or who seek to curb right-wing hate as "digital brownshirts."

Kevin Tober demonstrated in a March 14 post that he couldn't handle a quip critical of DeSantis:

On Tuesday's edition of MSNBC's All In, former Republican turned Lincoln Project activist Stuart Stevens was the latest on MSNBC to reveal how much Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis was feared by the left and that every statement he made would be overblown and distorted to take him down. The latest example came when DeSantis dared to respond to a questionnaire issued by Fox News host Tucker Carlson asking current and potential Republican presidential candidates where they stand on America's involvement in Ukraine.

Since DeSantis didn’t have the approved opinion of the Ukraine conflict, Stevens lost it and smeared the Florida governor as being a supporter of Putin’s Russia.

Stevens didn’t beat around the bush, he went there and straight-up accused DeSantis of liking Russia because it’s apparently a place where “there are no gay people, where there are no women in power. Where they're all Christians.”

“That's why they love Putin, and they love autocrats,” he added.
This is reminiscent of a meltdown Tober had in January when "disgraced former Obama National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes attempted to associate ousted Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro with former President Donald Trump and Florida Republican governor Ron DeSantis by claiming he fled to Florida because it’s an authoritarian state." Tober actually tried to defend Bolsonaro: "What was never explained was Bolsonaro traveled to Florida after leaving office to go on vacation since Florida is a popular destination spot with beautiful weather this time of year. He then subsequently got sick and was hospitalized. This kind of nuanced reasoning is a foreign concept to the deranged crackpots that appear on MSNBC."

Never mind, of course, that the MRC is not exactly known for nuanced reasoning. Tober also censored the fact that Bolsonaro played the Trump card in baselessly claiming alleged voting machine malfunction as the reason he lost re-election, then fled the country in an apparent bid to avoid blame for his supporters rioting in the Brazilian capital. It's more likely that Bolsonaro was seeking plausible deniability more than he was attracted to Florida's "beautiful weather."

Here are some of the other ways the MRC defended DeSantis in March and April:

A March 17 post by Tober cheered that a reporter was fired for accurately describing the content of a DeSantis press release:

During her latest bout of DeSantis derangement syndrome, MSNBC’s vile and vitriolic ReidOut host Joy Reid brought on disgraced former Axios journalist Ben Montgomery who on Monday was fired for calling a press release from Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s office “propaganda.” To attempt to illustrate her false belief that DeSantis is waging a war on the press, Reid used Montgomery's appearance on her Thursday night show to hold what seemed like a therapy session.

After pointing out that Montgomery was fired after his juvenile email was posted on Twitter by Florida Department of Education communications director Alex Lanfranconi, Reid bemoaned that “there is a bullying aspect and a lot of trolling” in the DeSantis administration.

“They tried to bully my dear friend and colleague Andrea Mitchell for asking a question not even to DeSantis, to the Vice President, Kamala Harris,” Reid whined, referencing a partisan interview conducted by Andrea Mitchell in which she asked, without evidence, why DeSantis doesn’t want schools to teach about slavery.

Doubling down on the very thing that got him fired in the first place, Montgomery proclaimed DeSantis’s press release “was propaganda” and “a waste of my time.”

Not wanting to be held accountable for his actions, Montgomery played the victim and claimed that Axios firing him for exposing himself as a leftist activist “has a chilling effect on the entire news media.”

Tober didn't explain how Montgomery's assessment of the DeSantis press release was incorrect in any way.

Christy spent a March 24 post complaining that DeSantis' time as a Navy lawyer at Guantanamo Bay dealing with was brought up:

MSNBC keeps coming up with reasons to oppose a potential presidential campaign by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The latest reason came on Thursday from The 11th Hour guest host Mehdi Hasan and Crooked Media podcaster Juanita Tolliver where they lamented DeSantis’s popularity will likely increase because he “tortured” prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Referencing the recent interview DeSantis did with Piers Morgan, Hasan teed up a clip of the controversy, “Juanita, DeSantis was also asked about the Washington Post reporting on his time in the Navy at Guantanamo Bay, including allegations that he advised the use of force feeding against prisoners participating in hunger strikes. Have a listen.”

The clip showed DeSantis claiming that force feeding was something he had no authority on, “I was a junior officer; I didn't have authority to authorize anything. There may have been a commander that would have done feeding if someone was going to die, but that was not something that I would have even had authority to do.”

By dishonestly portraying the DeSantis clip as representative of the Post article, Christy ignored the actual content of the article, in which DeSantis is quoted as an advocate of force-feeding, adding that "He has described the hunger strikes as part of a '“jihad' against the United States, and characterized claims of abuse from detainees and their lawyers as attempts to work the system — foreshadowing his conservative views as a lawmaker on issues ranging from constitutional rights to military and criminal justice."

Christy then whined that it was also pointed out how DeSantis is in a right-wing bubble:

Back live, Hasan wondered if DeSantis’s popularity would soon fade, “Juanita, do you think that this part of DeSantis’s record is going to get more attention in the future? I mean, there's so much more that could come out about him, his time in the Navy, his time in Congress, his time before politics, as a teacher. So far he's been cocooned in his safe right-wing space of Florida for so long.”

Despite being only a governor, DeSantis has faced a hostile press that has consistently lied and misled about what he is doing. The idea he is being cocooned in a right-wing safe space is ridiculous.

Not as ridiculous, however, as one of the maintainers of that DeSantis safe space denying that it exists.

Defending DeSantis' war on Disney

The MRC has also been giving DeSantis' partisan war against Disney special attention. Mandelburg did her best DeSantis PR job in an April 18 post:

“Don’t mess with Texas” should change to “don’t ef with Florida.” Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) just cracked down against Disney ... again.

Desantis and the Disney company have been in a feud for quite some time now. The increasingly woke entertainment conglomerate tried to interfere with Florida politics when it objected to a DeSantis-backed bill to protect kids from hypersexualized content in schools.

Most recently DeSantis has cracked down on Disney's fantasy financial situation. Walt Disney World resides in a special tax district called Reedy Creek and in essence, has been serving as its own government since 1967. DeSantis ended that and appointed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board to replace the Disney-run Reedy Creek Improvement District that formerly oversaw Disney World infrastructure.

Disney tried to outmaneuver DeSantis when it “cut a special deal with the old oversight board it controlled before the new board, appointed by [DeSantis], took over,” Daily Mail noted.

It became known that Disney secured approvals for the next 30 years for zoning, infrastructure and air-rights if the company chose to expand -- without approval from DeSantis’ selected board and without meeting the rules DeSantis had set.


DeDantis went so far as to drop a casual mention of building a prison next to the amusement park.

Disney owns undeveloped land near its current residence but DeSantis confirmed that Florida also owns that land. He toggled with a couple of ideas with suggestions from others like a state park or an extension of the amusement park. DeSantis added, “Someone even said, like, maybe you need another state prison. Who knows? I just think that the possibilities are endless.”

The House of Mouse might want to start playing nice, if you ask me, since Disney’s development is going to be up to DeSantis’ hand-picked board if the new resolution takes effect.

Mandelburg didn't explain why Disney must be punished simply for "objecting" to DeSantis' "don't say gay" law. She went on to huff that "Disney has clearly overstepped and abused its privileges," but she didn't explain why exercising First Amendment rights is suddenly a "privilege" when used to advance views she doesn't like.

The same day, Christy complained that commentators pointed out DeSantis' partisan nastiness:

Occasionally, the cast of MSNBC will view themselves as qualified to opine on what is and is not conservative and Tuesday’s Chris Jansing Reports was one such occasion. Not only did nominal Republican Tara Setmayer declare Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s fight with Disney to be “petulant” and “not conservative,” but also “un-American.”

Jansing’s original question to Setmayer had nothing to do with Disney, but was more about 2024 horse race analysis and how it relates to the GOP’s relationship with Donald Trump, “if you're a congressional Republican, how worried are you about the fallout from the former president if you show up at a DeSantis event?”

After a long-winded answer about Republicans being scared of Trump, DeSantis being a former “C-lister” and a “wimp,” Setmayer declared, “And his behavior taking on Disney is not only petulant, but should be concerning to people who claim that they're free market conservatives because political retribution against a private company is definitely not conservative and quite frankly un-American.”

Apparently, breaking cronyism is simultaneously anti-free market, un-conservative, and un-American. This is why MSNBC needs actual conservatives and not members of The Lincoln Project.

Christy didn't mention that his MRC colleague thinks free speech is a "privilege." Isn't that un-American?

In yet another April 18 post, Houck grumbled that there was accurate reporting about DeSantis and Disney:

Amid stories meant to inflame racial tensions, the Fox News vs. Dominion Voting Systems case, and rallying to TikTok’s defense over a Montana bill to ban the app, NBC’s Today found time Tuesday to bemoan Governor Ron DeSantis’s (R-FL) daring to “doubl[e] down on a fight against an American icon: Mickey Mouse.”

“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is making headlines on several fronts this morning. A high-profile trip to Washington, D.C., his escalating feud with Disney, now floating the idea of building a state prison next to Disney World,” co-host Craig Melvin began.

Houck then tried to reframe DeSantis's threat to build a prison next to Disney World: "After pointing out “[t]he clash last year when Disney opposed Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law,” Gutierrez bemoaned how DeSantis used an appearance to (jokingly) propose the “developing land next to Disney World” to include a prison." Houck offered no evidence that DeSantis was joking.

That was followed by Christy complaining that others didn't get DeSantis' (unproven) joke:

CBS’s The Late Show host Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show temp host Jordan Klepper condemned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on their Tuesday shows for joking about possibly putting a new state prison next to Disney World and it was unclear if these professional joke tellers knew DeSantis was joking.

Referencing Disney’s attempt to wiggle around state law, Colbert introduced a clip of DeSantis by declaring that he “couldn't take control of Disney World, so now he's talking about what he can do to the land around the park.”

Colbert may be celebrating prematurely, but as for DeSantis, the clip showed him musing over what do with the land around Disney World, “People have said, you know, maybe have another-- maybe create a state park, maybe try to do more amusement parks. Someone even said, like, maybe you need another state prison. Who knows? I mean, I just think that the possibilities are endless.”

Based off his tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions, DeSantis was clearly joking, but Colbert still replied, “Yeah, a state prison next to Disney. He’s about to run for president, and his latest proposal is ‘I'm going to put Florida convicts next to your children.’”

Christy regularly ignores the voice, body language, and facial expressions of comedians to declare that their jokes aren't funny, so maybe he's not a very good judge of such things.

Houck returned for an April 19 post whining that someone pointed out DeSantis' weak position against Disney:

MSNBC’s Morning Joe has, in part, been defined by co-host Joe Scarborough’s jealousy for Florida Republicans who had a more successful political career and following than he did.

Such was the case Wednesday when he and his crew of middle school bullies spent over 25 minutes smearing Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) as “anti-business,” “anti-conservative,” “insecure,” and “stupid” for fighting woke Disney and working to undo the state’s crony arrangement with Reedy Creek.

With 2024 on their mind, they also made sure to fawn over Donald Trump linking with Disney to attack DeSantis.


The ever-pompous goon later quipped: “You know, Willie, as a Florida guy, I am a Florida man, it’s never made sense these attacks on Disney.” He explained that “Floridians take great pride in” Disney and he has “friends” across the spectrum, so DeSantis doing anything to fight the multi-billion dollar corporation was “a great example...of Republicans overrplaying.”

Nowhere in these 25 minutes of hate did they care to admit DeSantis was reelected in November by nearly 20 points, Republicans swept state row offices, and the GOP gained super-majorities in the legislature.

If Houck thinks Scarborough is jealous of DeSantis' success, does that mean we can claim Houck is jealous of the success of CNN's Oliver Darcy, given how he can't stop maliciously slandering Darcy as a "Benedict Arnold" for the offense of escaping the right-wing bubble?

The next day, Houck baselessly insisted that Disney treats ABC the way the MRC treated its former "news" division

Acting on behalf of its parental overlords in Ron DeSantis-hating Disney, ABC’s Good Morning America ran a 62-second segment on Thursday trashing the Florida Republican Governor’s Board of Education for having “expanded the Don't Say Gay bill” “critics dangerous” to the lives of students.

ABC had a helping hand as Wednesday’s NBC Nightly News also bemoaned the change while touting members of Florida’s congressional delegation endorsing former President Trump over DeSantis in the 2024 GOP presidential primary.

Houck offered no evidence to back up his claim that Disney management is mandating the content of any ABC News report.

Houck used the word "whore" in the headline of an April 27 post to disgustingly smear any news coverage critical of DeSantis:

On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the “big three” of ABC, CBS, and NBC banded together under the banner of corporate liberalism to rally behind ABC’s parent company/"economic heavy hitter" Disney and even some 2024 GOP presidential candidates against Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) for having created a “long-running feud” and “power struggle” for Florida supremacy.

So as not to lose their jobs, ABC’s newscasts were stenographers for the people who sign their paychecks. World News Tonight anchor David Muir boasted in a tease: “Our parent company, Disney tonight filing a lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, accusing the governor of a ‘targeted campaign of government retaliation.’”

Again, Houck has no evidence of coordination -- he simply assumes that Disney treats ABC like his employer treated CNS. Despite a complete lack of proof, Houck concluded by repeating the slander again, asserting that the "liberal media" was "playing whores for corporate liberalism."

DeSantis must be paying the MRC well for it to so viciously attack and smear anyone who tells the truth about him.

Send this page to:

Bookmark and Share
The latest from

In Association with
Support This Site

home | letters | archive | about | primer | links | shop
This site © Copyright 2000-2023 Terry Krepel