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The MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade: Spouse Division

The Media Research Center is outraged that some in the media are treating Ron DeSantis' wife like ... the MRC and its fellow right-wingers treat Hillary Clinton. Plus: Poem bans, homophobic campaign ads and DeSantis' alleged comedy chops.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/26/2023

Ron DeSantis

The Media Research Center has spent the past few decades heaping attacks and scorn on Hillary Clinton, so it's more than a little hypocritical for it to suddenly get the vapors over the spouse of a Republican presidential candidate getting what might be called the Hillary treatment. Tim Graham called up the DeSantis Defense Brigade in a May 21 post:
Everyone should remember upfront before the Republican primaries really begin that Politico is a Democrat outlet. Look no further than Michael Kruse's nasty piece on "The Casey DeSantis Problem." Just read this and think of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, and know how much liberals would freak out:
She is and always has been by far his most important adviser, they say, because she is hesitant to cede that space to nearly anybody else. The DeSantis inner circle is too small and remains so, they say, not only because he constitutionally doesn’t trust people but because she doesn’t either.

Especially forthright are the people who are granted anonymity on account of their fear of retribution given their power — not just his but hers. “She’s the power behind the throne,” a Republican lobbyist told me. “The tip of the spear,” said a Republican consultant.
This is one of the most irresponsible uses of anonymous sources, just to make catty comments with no idea of the vicious anonymous source's motivations. Then Kruse turned to Trump stone-throwers:

“Have you ever noticed,” Roger Stone, the notorious political mischief-maker who is both a DeSantis antagonist and a many-decades-long Trump loyalist, remarked in a Telegram post last fall, “how much Ron DeSantis’ wife Casey is like Lady Macbeth?” — an agent, in other words, of her husband’s undoing.

As reporters like Fox's Joseph Wulfsohn reminded, just last year Politico derided "The return of the Lady Macbeth trope" during the 2022 midterms when it was used against First Lady Jill Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Gisele Fetterman.

We don't recall Graham complaining about those attacks -- in fact, Graham and the rest of the MRC appear to have a case of Jill Biden Derangement Syndrome. Graham went on to tout how "Conservatives slammed the piece on Twitter," continuing to be oblivious to the hypocrisy.

When another piece critical of Casey DeSantis appeared, it was Curtis Houck to go into defense mode in a June 5 post:

Daily Beast executive editor Katie Baker took to her supposedly serious journalistic outfit Sunday with a Mean Girls hit piece on Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis that bordered on infantile in its imbecilic language and proof that, if the person at the top feels this way, it’s a farce for the liberal media to view them as a sober purveyor of real journalism.

Baker’s piece consisted of throwing a conniption over Mrs. DeSantis’s decision to wear “a ghastly black leather jacket” — with an alligator and the phrase “Where Woke Goes to Die” on the back — to Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) Roast and Ride on Saturday as something you’d find in “the racks of a Red State big-bin store where it would be retailing for $24.99.”

Baker argued it was snugly tied into her husband Ron’s 2024 presidential campaign: “Crude. Grasping. Saying the ugly part out loud.”

She added that DeSantis was “even more explicit [than Trump] about who he intends to target” (i.e. minorities, in the fictitious world of liberals) with Florida being where not only “woke go[es] to [die],” but “a lot of other people die as well.”

Not having to fear fact-checkers, Baker provided no evidence other than the liberal media’s talking point (echoed by the Trump campaign) that “Florida under DeSantis has had one of the highest COVID death rates in the nation”.

Houck couldn't be bothered to do a fact-check either, so we will. Wait, we already did: Florida's COVID death rate is the 18th highest in the country. And, of course, the MRC has no problem going all Mean Girls on women it hates for being insufficiently right-wing, like Alyssa Farah Griffin.

Houck went on to whine that Baker "needs to go outside and touch some grass instead of whine about how Republican women use fashion “to stick it to political enemies” and “a bored, nihilistic shrug,” concluding:

Baker’s puerile bile (dressed up as a supposedly edgy takedown) ended with her lament claiming Mrs. DeSantis’s jacket proved “she is cheering on a spouse who gets his kicks off targeting his fellow Americans,” “down with his message of division and dehumanization,”and “ready for far more power.”

All the while, Baker seethes, the DeSantis are “seething with hate.”

Houck might have a compelling argument if he and his MRC co-workers didn't have a record of doing to women they don't like what he accuses Baker of doing.

Alex Christy spent a July 7 post complaining that Casey DeSantis got fact-checked:

CNN Tonight host Alisyn Camerota tried and failed to fact-check an ad featuring Casey DeSantis where she touted her husband Ron’s record of banning “child mutilation.” As Camerota tells it, DeSantis’s team admits they have no proof of such events ever happening, but that is not true.


After the clip, Camerota singled out one issue in particular. Addressing The Atlantic’s James Surowiecki, she claimed, “Okay. James? Child mutilation, illegal? It's illegal everywhere, by the way. I mean, obviously, they're referring to, you know, reassignment surgery, but that, it was fact checked by PolitiFact that actually, the governor's office could not provide PolitiFact any examples of this happening to a child.”

The PolitiFact article in question came out in August 2022. In that article, author Yacob Reyes wrote, “The governor's office sent PolitiFact two examples of people who received transition-related surgeries in their mid to late teenage years — one at 15 and one at 17.”

However, to justify a “mostly false,” rating Reyes got hyperliteral, “DeSantis' Florida Department of Health differentiates between children (under 10) and adolescents (10-18).”

By speaking of children, Casey DeSantis was clearly using “children” as a synonym for “minors” and Reyes notes that such operations do exist:

When one commentator pointed out that such gender-reassignment surgeries are rate, Christy huffed that the post "has an agenda to push, but even if that is accurate, 'not common' is not 'never.'" Talk about being hyperliteral.

Mark Finkelstein took on more criticism of Casey DeSantis the next day:

This could be the ugliest liberal-media attack on a candidate's wife in recent memory. On Jonathan Capehart's MSNBC show on Saturday two guests competed to see which one could smear the wife of a Republican candidate with the ugliest epithet.

The two contestants in the mudslinging match were Tara Setmayer of the disgraced Lincoln Project, and ex-Republican David Jolly. Their target was Casey DeSantis, wife of Ron.

Jolly described Casey as "America's Karen." That led a hooting Capehart to tell Setmayer, "Tara, I think David's beaten you in terms of taking my breath away during a segment." Capehart virtually congratulated Jolly on his insult, saying, "'America's Karen:' David Jolly, you went for it!"

But Setmayer was not to be bested in the slander stakes. She promptly riposted, seeking to demonstrate that she could be even nastier than Jolly: "Well, I called her a Serena Waterford wannabe."

Waterford is the character from The Handmaid's Tale who has been described, in a website about screen villains, as "the cruel, fanatically religious wife of Fred Waterford, the dictator of Gilead."


Try to imagine how the MSNBC regulars would get the vapors if you called Jill Biden or Kamala Harris or Michelle Obama "America's Karen."

Finkelstein might want to look through the MRC archives to see exactly how it treated those women before he goes any farther with that defense.

Poem ban defense

The DeSantis Defense Brigade got to help out in promoting the MRC's enthusiasm for library book bans and restrictions. Curtis Houck complained in a May 24 post:

Tuesday’s CBS Mornings did its part to join into the liberal media’s latest piece of fake news about Florida meant to impale conservative policies and Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) by insisting a poem from far-left poet laureate Amanda Gorman was “bann[ed]” from a Florida school.

With a chyron reading “Florida Book Banning Controversy” (and one in a tease having read “Amanda Gorman’s Poem Banned”), featured co-host Vladimir Duthiers began:
Let’s begin with the ongoing controversy over book banning in schools, this time involving Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate. A grade school in South Florida restricted access to Gorman’s acclaimed poem, The Hill We Climb after one parent filed a complaint.
Adding the poem was written for “President Biden’s inauguration in 2021,” he then queued up an excerpt from Gorman talking about the need to “repair” America from its “past” and “victory” will be based in a “promise.”


Only after he added that Gorman said “she was ‘gutted’” by the supposed ban did CBS have Duthier reveal how a ban couldn’t be any further from the truth: “The school district says, no literature has been banned or removed, but it determined that The Hill We Climb is better suited for middle school students and was shelved in the middle school section of the media center.”
Houck also complained that Duthiers repeated "spin from the far-left, pro-LGBTQ group the Florida Freedom to Read Project that framed the parent who raised concerns as a kook," but he failed to refute the group's claims that the parent ludicrously attacked the poem as being filed with "hate messages" and falsely claimed it was written by Oprah Winfrey. It has since been revealed that the parent never bothered to read the full poem, she's so far-right that she has attended Proud Boys rallies and promoted the virulently anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" online.

Despite all that, the MRC continued to defend restrictions on the poem, now claiming it was done for "vocabulary" reasons, even though that was not in the parent's complaint. It was Alex Christy's turn to grouse in a May 27 post:

The latest bit of fake news to come out of Florida was that teenager Amanda Gorman’s 2020 Inauguration poem was banned from a school library when the reality was it was moved to the middle school section for “vocabulary” reasons. Not that MSNBC Deadline: White House host Nicolle Wallace cared. She teamed up with twice failed Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee and election denier Stacey Abrams and PoliticsNation host Al Sharpton on Friday to decry the fact that Republicans have not denounced a story that doesn’t exist.

During their conversation, Wallace mourned to Abrams, “But to take a poet and a poem that should be held up across partisan lines and demonize the piece itself and the creator of it, I mean understand from reporting this week it was one parent that complained, but I have not seen one Republican defend Amanda Gorman or her poem.”


It is true there was a single parent that wanted the poem removed completely, but clearly that request went nowhere so talk of “tyrants” is hyperbolic. Nevertheless, Sharpton responded, “what happens is that we lose a sense of what we are really living through and evolving from and going through. You cannot deal with fruits without dealing with the roots that it came from.”

If Wallace wants to have a conversation on the vocabulary levels of elementary versus middle school students, she can, but that would be rather boring and wouldn’t allow her to demand Republicans denounce Republican-passed legislation.

Christy failed to mention the parent's record of hate and extremism or that vocabulary was not part of her complaint.

Christy returned for a June 1 post whining that DeSantis was busted for making a dubious claim about book bans in his state, laboring hard to reframe what he said to justify attacking the fact-checker:

After launching his presidential campaign on Twitter Spaces, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was condemned by PolitiFact for his assertion that Florida has not banned any books. That summary did not give DeSantis a rating for his claims, but on Wednesday PolitiFact returned to the claim and rated it “false.” Yet, the article itself suggests that a “false” rating is overzealous and is ultimately based on a straw man.

The exact quotation authors Matthew Crowley and Amy Sherman single out is "There's not been a single book banned in the state of Florida. You can go buy or you can use whatever book you want."

DeSantis was clearly talking about literal book bans, not whether this book or that book is available in a school library.

Crowley and Sherman then go onto provide more DeSantis quotes about age appropriate books in schools, “Parents have flagged books in schools that, for example, teach middle school kids how to use sex apps that provide graphic depictions of sex acts and sex toys for people as young as fifth grade.”

For the authors this means “DeSantis’ claim that no book has been banned in Florida goes too far. Florida districts have removed some books entirely while restricting others to certain grades or requiring students to get parental permission to see them.”

This isn’t a fact-check of the claim PolitiFact purports to be checking. DeSantis claimed that you can go out and buy any book your heart desires, which is true. Crowley and Sherman are checking a straw man.


Again, DeSantis was speaking very narrowly about a literal book ban, not just in the context of schools. Nevertheless, the authors then go on to cite the American Library Association’s definition that a ban is “the removal of a book based on a person of group’s objection” as authoritative and that “experts we spoke to” agree.

Houck returned to complain that Gorman was continued to allow to discuss how her poem was treated in Florida in a June 8 post:

Based on how the second hour of Wednesday’s CBS Mornings went, they showed they’re not interested in earning the trust of conservatives as they dedicate segments to far-left authors Amanda Gorman and Ibram X. Kendi to cry homophobia, transphobia, and racism over parents in Florida and other conservative locales wanting a role in the books and curriculum in the education system.

Co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King was ebullient with this hour of wokeness, gushing first over Gorman in a tease that she’d be speaking out after “her inaugural poem was restricted by a Florida school following a parent’s complaint,” another chapter in the “growing trend...of limiting access to books that deal with racism and other issues.”

In a second tease, King lamented Gorman’s work being “restricted,” adding the show would ask her “about the rise of book banning”. Gorman led off the second hour with King engaging in more disinformation, again referring to the rise in “banning books.”

Gorman’s case wasn’t any sort of ban, so all uses of “ban” in the segment were comical in nature given the book was assessed to be better tagged for middle schoolers and could be requested by students in the library’s media center.

Note Houck's wildly euphemistic framing of the treatment of Gorman's poem as having merely been "assessed to be better tagged." Houck also failed to mention the extremism of the parent who wanted the poem banned or that she never even read the poem, and he also failed to explain how, exactly, Gorman is "far-left."

Ron's comedy chops

The MRC's resident comedy cop, Alex Christy, has brought his policing skills to the DeSantis Defense Brigade. ConWebWatch has already noted his insistence that DeSantis' claim that he wanted to build a prison next to Disney World was a joke, despite offering no evidence that it was, and he defended DeSantis' purported comedy chops again in a May 23 post:

As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis prepares to launch his presidential campaign, NBC is pulling out all the stops to derail his bid before it gets going. On Monday, Henry Gomez wrote an article under the headline Ron DeSantis is learning that not every state wants to be Florida.Not only did Gomez not mention any anti-Florida states, he apparently can’t tell the difference between DeSantis’s criticisms of other states and jokes.

Gomez recounts a recent DeSantis speech:
In Georgia, a compliment quickly gave way to grievance. ‘One thing we’re no longer No. 1 in is college football,’ DeSantis told an audience during a visit to a gun store in March. ‘So I just have a little bit of a plea … just stop taking so many of our high school football recruits. Can you give us a little bit of a chance?’
It’s a joke about college football and how the University of Georgia has won two consecutive national championships while Florida schools have gone the opposite direction.

Gomez’s inability to comprehend a joke was also a fitting summary for the rest of his article. Gomez contends “a funny thing has happened as DeSantis travels the country with a ‘Make America Florida’ message that underpins the Republican’s soon-to-launch presidential campaign.”


NBC has claimed to discover some truly earth-shattering news: Republican governors do Republican things and all they had to do to turn that basic fact of life into an anti-DeSantis hit piece was lose anything resembling a sense of humor.

Of course, if you feel you have to explain the joke, that means the joke has failed. And remember, this is a guy who thinks any joke on late-night TV that makes fun of a Republican cannot possibly be funny, so maybe he's the one who does not have anything resembling a sense of humor.

Homophobic video defense

The DeSantis Defense Brigade continued to hate it when people call out what a terrible and nasty candidate and overall person Ron DeSantis is:

When a pro-DeSantis PAC released a wildly anti-LGBT ad specifically designed to show how much DeSantis hates transgender people and how Trump allegedly doesn't hate them enough, the Defense League snapped into action. Brad Wilmouth touted its clickbait potential in a July 7 post:

When it comes to the Republican half of the presidential race, CNN is going to hate all the candidates. On Monday's CNN This Morning, the anchors were outraged at a eye-grabbing ad shared by the DeSantis War Room twitter account. It asserted Donald Trump was pro-LGBTQ and then showed scare headlines of how DeSantis outraged the gay groups. It seemed designed to outrage leftists for more clicks.

Co-host Phil Mattingly set up the discussion: "We saw this Ron DeSantis superPAC put out an ad attacking former President Trump for his support for LGBTQ rights -- I think we've got some of that. I want to play at least a little bit of it."

After playing a clip of the ad which highlighted headlines touting some of Governor DeSantis's actions in Florida regarding gay-related issues, Mattingly threw shade at the ad's designer:


CNN only picked liberals to respond to this. Former Congressman Max Rose (D-N.Y.) unleashed the typical "hate-filled" and "xenophobic" adjectives, and said there's no way this would work.

Wilmouth seemed quite excited about this ad being "designed to outrage leftists for more clicks."

Tim Graham loved the ad too, and he complained that others didn't in a July 8 post:

PBS host Laura Barron-Lopez played a snippet of a pro-DeSantis ad touting how he's horrified the liberals as "extreme" on LGBTQ issues (as if they aren't radicals). Republicans will lose the general election, the journalists agreed.

Susan Page of USA Today started it off: “It's one of the things that DeSantis has done, like signing a six-week ban on abortion. That may help him in Republican primaries, although so far, it`s not helping him much. It will haunt him if he gets into the general election as the Republican nominee, because that attitude toward LGBTQ rights is quite at odds with where American public opinion is today.”

At least Talev underlined the ad didn’t come from the DeSantis campaign, but a DeSantis superPAC shared it, and “if the purpose of this was to show that Donald Trump is to the left and that he has embraced gay rights, that's where the ad would have stopped. The purpose of the ad is to begin there and then to define Ron DeSantis as the sort of champion of anti-gay, anti-trans positions. And so it begins as being about Donald Trump, but in the end, it`s not really about Donald Trump. It's much more about positioning Ron DeSantis.”


Barron-Lopez concluded: “That video is definitely, as you said, Margaret, very anti-LGBTQ, anti-transgender, and not necessarily something that will help Ron DeSantis or former President Trump on the campaign trail in the general electorate, if they make to the general electorate.”

Democrats can support "gender-affirming care" for children and Drag Queen Story Hour in public schools and they're never outside the mainstream. The journalists on PBS are unanimous.

Graham didn't explain what is so "mainstream" about vicious hatred of transgender people. And neither Graham nor Wilmouth mentioned that even a conservative LGBT group found the ad offensive, and they failed to follow up on the subterfuge around the ad; this and other videos -- including one featuring a Nazi-style sonnenrad -- were created by the PAC, then laundered through anonymous Twitter accounts for distribution.

It wasn't all defense, though; Luis Cornelio cranked out what was effectively a DeSantis campaign press release in a July 10 post:

A leading 2024 presidential candidate promised to abolish the Big Tech-Government censorship collusion regime if elected.

In a Sunday interview on the Fox News Channel’s Sunday Morning Futures, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) pledged to crack down on the anti-free speech cabal perpetrated by the Biden administration’s collusion apparatus with social media platforms.

“We will end the weaponization of government,” a fired-up DeSantis told Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo, referring to the left’s blunt use of government to promote its political agenda and censor people that disagree with them. Censorship, DeSantis argued, will stop under his watch.

“We're going to clean house at the Department of Justice,” DeSantis added, before highlighting the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. “I look back at, like, the Hunter Biden censorship which was a huge, huge deal to happen in the 2020 election. And yet, those were Donald Trump's own agencies that were colluding with Big Tech. I would never allow that to happen. I would fire those people immediately.”

Cornelio didn't disclose how much the DeSantis campaign paid him to write this bit of rah-rah fluff.

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