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The MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade: The Bitter End

All the Media Research Center's in-kind contributions to Ron DeSantis' presidential campaign -- in the form of constant defense for him and a gushy interview -- couldn't make voters care about him, and it refused to criticize his mismanaged campaign.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/25/2024

Ron DeSantis

Curtis Houck spent a Dec. 4 post going on DeSantis Defense League patrol for the Media Research Center, complaining that other people were noticing the floundering state of Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign, which even the MRC's in-kind contribution in the form of a gushy interview with him did nothing to change:
On Monday’s editions of ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today, the two gleefully ripped Governor and 2024 GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis (R-FL) despite his completion of the “Full Grassley” (visiting Iowa’s 99 counties) over the weekend by mocking his “losing” bid and “problems…mounting” with “tensions” at fever pitch as former President Trump continues to “stomp” him.

Good Morning America (GMA) was, of course, the most gleeful given its place as chief corporate shill for parent company Disney and prostituting itself for all things Disney theme parks (such as here). In other words, why wouldn’t Disney sic its top AM news show on a man who’s waged a successful war embarrassing Disney?

Better yet, this came at the same time a scathing state audit came out about Disney and the special governance and tax district created to oversee DisneyWorld, Reedy Creek.

Houck offered no evidence to back up his claim that ABC is following corporate orders in criticizing DeSantis.

From there, we jump to a Jan. 5 post by Alex Christy, in which he complained about the “worst questions” from CNN town hall events for both DeSantis and Nikki Haley:

CNN held two presidential town halls on Thursday in Iowa, one with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and another with former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and while most of the questions were good or unobjectionable as they came from actual Republican voters. However, when CNN deviated from that formula things went sideways as DeSantis was asked how many people he was willing to kill to secure the border and Haley was asked about kicking Gazans out of Gaza.

DeSantis went first and moderator Kaitlan Collins introduced the questioner as Joseph Howe, “He is a business consultant from Des Moines, who is the former Iowa Libertarian state chair. He now says he is Republican and he’s undecided. Joseph?”

Bad Libertarian habits die hard as Howe quizzed DeSantis about the border, “Yeah, thanks for being here. Governor, almost all illegal migrants crossing the border carry a backpack or bag, very few are cartel members. If you order to shoot on sight, now excepting women and children, how many innocent people are you willing to have killed to kill one low-level drug mule?”

DeSantis responded by comparing drug cartels to the insurgents in the Iraq War, “Well, Joseph, thanks for that, but I take issue with the premise of that. When you’re conducting military operations, you’re not just doing that willy-nilly. I’m the only one running for president that actually has served overseas, in a war, in the Iraq campaign. They didn’t dress, they didn’t wear uniforms. You had to positively identify. People would have hostile actions, hostile intent. And then you would be able to engage.”

Later that day, Christy had a meltdown because “The View” honored drag queens from Florida who are being targeted by DeSantis:

Friday was Ana Navarro’s birthday and she and her colleagues on ABC’s The View marked the occasion by welcoming and celebrating a bunch of drag queens from the R House, which was investigated by Florida. Naturally, the investigation was mentioned in order to allow Navarro to claim R House defeated Gov. Ron DeSantis, but the reason for the investigation was never mentioned.

Sara Haines offered up an affirmation for the guests, “One of my favorite things about a drag show is there’s no one’s that’s out of place at a drag show. It does feel so inclusive which I love, but the R House is located in Miami, which is under the state rule of Governor DeSantis and I know he’s really come for drag shoe– shows and LGBTQ+ communities lately—”

Amidst the laughter from Haines’s shoes/shows slip up, Joy Behar would ask “What’s his problem? What’s his problem?”

DeSantis’s “problem” with R House was summarized by NBC’s Miami affiliate in September, “Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in July 2022 that an investigation by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation was launched following the release of a video showing an exposed drag queen and young girl hand-in-hand at an R House show. In the clip, the drag queen is seen wearing lingerie as she parades the girl around the restaurant.”

In the accompanying video, NBC Miami censors the drag queen in question the way that a network would typically censor frontal nudity. They go onto report that the state and R House settled with R House paying a fine, but not having to admit guilt.

Christy left out the part where the investigation found no unlawful sexually explicit content at R House shows. Nevertheless, Christy tried to justify DeSantis’ targeting of drag queens by hyping his re-election numbers: “One can debate why DeSantis’s presidential numbers are what they are, but it is silly to pretend that the man who won re-election by almost 20 points is being punished by Republicans for opposing lingerie-clad drag queens parading around with young children.”

Tom Olohan helped DeSantis do a victory lap in a Jan. 9 post over a prosecutor he fired:

A Soros-backed district attorney and fifteen-minute legacy media hero will have more time to spend on MSNBC.

Former Florida State Attorney Andrew Warren announced Tuesday on an X (formerly Twitter)  video that he would not seek reelection following his removal by Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Warren — who has been promoted by legacy media after refusing to prosecute abortion cases — whined that DeSantis “shot democracy in the middle of our courthouse and he has gotten away with it.”

Warren went on to claim that he would be unceremoniously thrown out of office a second time if he won reelection and complained that, “DeSantis broke our democracy, and it’s too fragile and too important to let him do it again.”

It’s a tough break for his cheerleaders in the legacy media. 

A few days later, a federal appeals court overturned a lower court’s decision to toss Warren’s request to return to office, pointing out that Warren had engaged in protected activity and that DeSantis acted in his own personal interests in suspending him. Neither Olohan or the rest of the MRC mentioned that.

The Reagan deep cut

One of the odder missions by the MRC's DeSantis Defense Brigade came in the form of a Jan. 11 post by Jorge Bonilla grumbling that the media didn’t understand a obscure Ronald Reagan deep cut from nearly 50 years ago to which Ron DeSantis dropped a reference during a Republican presidential debate, such as it was, between him and Nikki Haley (and, of course, not Donald Trump):

A basic tenet of any sort of media tradecraft, whether in print or on-screen, is that you should have some knowledge of the things of which you speak or write; a revolutionary concept. When that doesn’t happen, we get what we saw tonight- an assortment of drive-bys beclowning themselves over the meaning of a quote used by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as a callback to Ronald Reagan.

The meaning of “pale pastels” within GOP political discourse is not something that is readily discoverable subsequent to a 10-second Google search. I get it. But the term does have historic significance.

Ronald Reagan used the term multiple times, most notably during his unity speech at the 1976 GOP convention. “Bold, unmistakable colors with no pale pastel shades,” Reagan said when contrasting the GOP platform with that of the Democrats. That phrase has been broadly used by conservatives ever since- with the crystal-clear understanding that it comes from Reagan. 

And yet, while live-posting (formerly live-tweeting) about tonight’s Republican primary debate on CNN, NBC reporter Ali Vitali took notice of DeSantis’ use of “pale pastels” when drawing distinctions between himself and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. And immediately, Vitali thought that DeSantis had committed a SEXISM, posting:
A color scheme, “pale pastel” or otherwise, is not the way you attack a presidential candidate. None of the men who’ve been on these debate stages have had their clothes used to criticize their policies.

One symptom of the corruption of our journalistic institutions is the willful elevation of propaganda over facts obtained through knowledge of the subject matter you are writing about. 

Exit question: How soon before the media try to wriggle out of it with a “DeSantis plagiarizes Reagan” news cycle?

How ironic that Bonilla — a person paid to promote propaganda over facts — is accusing others of elevating propaganda over facts, as well as trying to shame journalists for not knowing about an obscure Reagan quote that even he had to look up.

Nicholas Fondacaro complained that debate moderator Anderson Cooper called out DeSantis over money issues, calling Cooper’s claims “LIES” without actually proving that they were:

The fifth Republican presidential primary debate on Wednesday (hosted by CNN) between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was certainly heated; with both candidates taking wild rhetorical swings at each other. And in a post-debate interview, DeSantis showed he still had a lot of fight in him as he schooled CNN’s Anderson Cooper for parroting falsehoods about his campaign that Haley brought up.

“Her criticism of you is that a lot of those donors, which you were criticizing her for, used to be your donors,” Cooper poked, knowing fleeing donors was a bad sign for a campaign. DeSantis immediately pushed back, declaring “That’s actually not true.”

DeSantis went on to point out that Haley had donors who would never support him, including left-wing ones:


Cooper repeatedly tried to give credence to Haley’s claim that DeSantis’s campaign was mishandling funds and was essentially just burning money. DeSantis shot back with the fact that what she was talking about was a super PAC which he is legally unable to coordinate with:

In fact, DeSantis’ Never Back Down PAC effectively ran his campaign and did some explicit coordination with the campaign — meaning that DeSantis was being disingenuous, if not actually lying, about this.

Curtis Houck accused non-right-wing media of downplaying how much time DeSantis and Haley criticized Trump during their debate:

On Thursday morning amid the network recaps of Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate between Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Nikki Haley, NBC’s Today and senior Capitol Hill correspondent Garrett Haake offered a pants-on-fire lie that the two “launch[ed]” repeated attacks on each other’s records and honesty and “barely criticiz[ed]” frontrunner Donald Trump “[d]espite trailing Trump in Iowa and nationally”.

If that’s the case, then why is it that, using CNN’s official transcript of the debate (see here and here), a NewsBusters review and copy/paste of all the times DeSantis and Haley mentioned Trump (without set-up questions from CNN moderators Dana Bash and Jake Tapper), it came out to over 2,600 words and five full pages as a PDF?

Houck went on to huff, “This is how the liberal media work. They define their terms and, until you capitulate to their side, they’ll use whatever characterizations they see fit to define your behavior and political tactics.” Actually, that’s more of a trait of the right-wing media.

And just to prove that right-wing media longs to be the language police, Bonilla lashed out at a CBS reporter who called out DeSantis using the favored right-wing term “illegal immigrant”:

With the upcoming Iowa Caucuses as cover, CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe took it upon himself to scold Gov. Ron DeSantis’ use of the term “illegal immigrant” in a report with enough immigration advocacy to lead reasonable individuals to conclude that the report was better suited to Univision.

Watch as O’Keefe suggests that the term “illegal immigrants” vilifies...illegal immigrants, and stealthily conflates legal with illegal immigration:


If it is a vilification of those who entered the country illegally to refer to them as “illegal immigrants”, then there is implicit an unlimited, blanket right to immigrate to the United States that simply does not exist no matter how hard the left wishes it so.

O’Keefe offers “undocumented immigrants” as the alternative, which in itself is a linguistic illegal alien, given that it is a translation of the common-use term as it is used in its original Spanish. The term only came into existence a little over a decade ago. And “illegal immigrant”, used by DeSantis, was a softening of “illegal alien”, which is probably the best and most accurate descriptor of someone who did not enter the country legally. This underscores the extent to which language, and its policing thereof, is a big part of the immigration debate. 

It’s as if Bonilla is demanding that O’Keefe capitulate to his side.

One final time
As the final days of Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign rolled around, the Media Research Center remained in Defense Brigade mode — therefore, its readers heard nothing about the growing reports on how badly his campaign was run, or even about DeSantis’ own regrets about hiding inside the right-wing media bubble instead of talking to media outlets that weren’t filled with right-wing partisans. Instead, we got a Jan. 19 post from Brad Wilmouth reciting culture-war talking points, complaining that “CNN contributor Ashley Allison was allowed to wrongly claim that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is ‘trying to erase black history’ from schools even though this claim is demonstrably false.” Wilmouth’s redundancy seems to be a sign that the Defense Brigade was getting a little worn out.

When DeSantis dropped out of the race before the New Hampshire primary, the Defense Brigade was on full alert to complain when people pointed out how terrible of a campaign he had. Mark Finkelstein complained in a Jan. 22 post when “Morning Joe” addressed it:

But in its second half-hour, today’s show eventually got around to the DeSantis news–and did so with a nasty smirk. Katty Kay kicked things off. You might imagine that BBCer Kay represents the more refined wing of the liberal media. But there she was with a mocking laugh as she suggested to Charlie Sykes that they do a DeSantis post-mortem, “before we consign him to oblivion and forget his name.” Klassy Katty!

Scarborough took it from there. His theme was that Trump is “Fat Elvis,” the “sweaty Fat Elvis” of 1977, and that’s what his fans want. Thus, they were not going to switch to a knock-off Fat Elvis in the person of DeSantis. According to Scarborough, DeSantis needed to find another lane, but never did so.

Curtis Houck whined further about the criticism:

Unsurprisingly, Disney-owned ABC News was ebullient on Monday’s Good Morning America with the news from Sunday afternoon that Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) – who took on and embarrassed the Sunshine State behemoth — had dropped out of the 2024 presidential race, calling it an “implosion” and “spectacular failure” that hadn’t been seen in American history.

Having helped in vanquishing their most-hated candidate, ABC pivoted to their preferred candidate, former President Trump, and proclaimed he’s not only continuing to spew lies on various issues, but is the 2024 candidate in cognitive decline. Nowhere was it mentioned that President Biden has shown a major mental decline and has voters across the spectrum concerned.

Comedy cop Alex Christy huffed about the late-night shows addressing DeSantis:

The late night quintet spent their Monday shows celebrating the news that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has decided to drop out of the Republican primary by mocking his appearance and making fun of his Winston Churchill blunder by claiming that is what happens when you “ban textbooks.”

CBS’s Stephen Colbert was the most bitter towards DeSantis on The Late Show as he made the curious claim that DeSantis did not win the Republican primary because he made liberals like himself quite upset, “I don’t understand why Americans didn’t rally behind a guy who declared war on the Magic Kingdom, attacked trans kids, denied COVID, kidnapped migrants and flew them to Martha’s Vineyard, and ate pudding with his fingers.”

Over at ABC, Jimmy Kimmel played a clip DeSantis posted when he made his announcement, “Winston Churchill once remarked ‘that success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.’” 

Kimmel, who spread fake news of his own on Thursday and did not correct the record on Monday, retorted that, “Well, not only did DeSantis opt not to continue, Winston Churchill never said that. The state of Florida, you know, the state banned all books about Churchill after deciding the name Winston sounded too gay so Ron DeSantis didn’t know.”

Meanwhile, over at NBC, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon did a Mickey Mouse impersonation, “Bye, bitch!”

Referencing the DeSantis-Churchill clip, Fallon added, “That’s right, DeSantis posted a video announcing that he was dropping out. And during it, he attributed a quote about failure to Winston Churchill, but Churchill never actually said it. See, this is what happens when you ban textbooks.”

Later on NBC, Late Night host Seth Meyers claimed that “the weirdo community suffered a major blow on Sunday when, in a completely unsurprising move, one of the most off-putting people on the planet, Ron DeSantis, seen here waiting for someone to hit a golf ball into his mouth, dropped out of the GOP presidential primary.”

That was one of only two references at the MRC to DeSantis reading a fake quote from Winston Churchill in his drop-out announcement (which may have originally come from a beer ad); the second was in a Feb. 2 post by Christy whining that it was referenced on the new late-night show “After Midnight.” Still, Christy tried to play whataboutism over the misquote to attack others he claimed made false claims about DeSantis:

Poking fun at the Churchill goof is one thing, but to say that believing men are men is problematic, or that he kidnapped migrants, or that banning sexually explicit material for children is the same as banning history books is quite different. In fact, if anyone was to ban Churchill books, it would be the left. Additionally, DeSantis is still governor, so the comedians should tamper their celebrations.

Finkelstein returned to complain about more “Morning Joe” criticism of DeSantis:

What’s up with these Morning Joe regulars who had cultivated something of a benign image suddenly turning nasty?

Yesterday, we noted BBCer Katty Kay with a mocking laugh as she suggested to Charlie Sykes that they do a DeSantis post-mortem, “before we consign him to oblivion and forget his name.”

Today, it was Eugene Robinson’s turn to turn mean. Though Robinson is an ardent liberal, he has something of an avuncular air about him. But both in his current Washington Post column, snidely entitled “The Nation’s Gain is Florida’s Loss,” and on today’s Morning Joe, Robinson took nasty swipes at Ron DeSantis as the Florida governor exited the GOP primary stage.

The show quoted Robinson’s very strained analogy in his column [emphasis added], “I fear DeSantis will continue using the state as a stage to boost his MAGA profile — just like those awfully high heels on his cowboy boots.”


Who’s next? Although Willie Geist has become an ardent Trump critic, he has somehow managed to maintain an affable air. Should we expect Willie, sometime soon, to unload ugly shots at Trump or another unsuspecting Republican?

Finkelstein didn’t explain why DeSantis is above criticism. Brad Wilmouth, meanwhile, groused about even more criticism of DeSantis:

In the aftermath of Ron DeSantis dropping out of the GOP presidential race over the weekend, MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohyeldin led a panel in trashing the Florida governor over his electoral misfortune, hitting him with personal attacks and accusing him of being a terrible governor.

Setting up one of several segments on the subject on Sunday night, Mohyeldin posed: “Can you think of a single Republican primary contender who has embarrassed themselves more or tarnished their reputation more than Governor Ron DeSantis?”

He then went to disaffected former Republican Tara Setmayer, who currently works for the disgraced Lincoln Project, giving her a chance to gloat that she and her former colleague Rick Wilson had predicted DeSantis as an “Epic Fail” when it began. Mohyeldin ended up declaring that he has never “seen someone as cringeworthy as DeSantis.”

Christy had another late-night watch post grumbling that Seth Meyers was still taking shots at DeSantis for his culture-war obsessions:

Amongst the late night comedians there exists a peculiar theory that says the reason why Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis struggled and ultimately failed to win the Republican presidential nomination is because he pursued policies as governor that they, a bunch of liberals, do not like and that nobody else cares about. NBC Late Night host Seth Meyers was the latest example on Tuesday as he claimed that nobody cares about “what bathroom someone uses,” pronouns, or anything else that conservatives actually do care about.

DeSantis’s withdrawal from the race put Meyers in a self-admittedly awkward place as he moderated a fake debate between DeSantis and Nikki Haley. For the most part, Meyers asks silly questions and uses cut up sound bites from the candidates’ answers at the most recent real debate for humorous effect. However, occasionally Meyers will try to make an actual political argument as he did when he turned his fake debate into a parody of the game show Pyramid.

The “category” DeSantis, who still won re-election by almost 20 points, was supposed to “guess” was “things no voter cares about” and Meyers began with “banning LGBTQ books.”

DeSantis faux-replied, “Things that are going to help seniors.” That’s cute, but Meyers never does explain how books that Joy Reid’s show won’t even tweet out without censorship are suitable for children.

Trying again, Meyers tried again “No. Complaining about someone for preferred pronouns.”

DeSantis’s fake reply this time was “Things in Florida,” but as hard as it may be for Meyers to understand, some people really do care about putting truth before subjective feelings.

Christy went on to whine that “Meyers will be surprised to know that a great many people actually do care what bathroom people use because a society that cannot get basic concepts of male and female right does not have much of a chance of getting anything else right.” Then again, he and DeSantis marinate in the same right-wing media bubble that created — and ultimately doomed — the campaign, so it’s hard to gauge what he thinks whether any of the “great many people” Christy is talking about actually reside outside of it.

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