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Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis recently stirred a local pandemic controversy when he threatened to withhold Covid-19 vaccines from communities where officials had criticized how the state was doling out the crucial shots. After coming under fire for setting up a pop-up vaccination outpost that was only open to residents from two wealthy zip codes in Manatee County that had been least impacted by Covid, DeSantis at a press conference said he'd be happy to ship those vaccines elsewhere if local pols kept griping.
"Let us know if you want us to send it Sarasota or Charlotte or Pasco or wherever, let us know — we’re happy to do it," said the thin-skinned governor. "I’d be thankful because you know what? We didn’t need to do this at all."
DeSantis apparently backed the pop-up post for the mostly-white zip codes at the urging of a local developer. The Governor has “repeatedly put corporate special interests and his campaign donors ahead of Floridians in need," Florida Watch, a progressive policy group, argued at the time.
It was a typical DeSantis move. He’s spent the last year brawling over Covid, trying to silence scientists, covering up data, rescinding mask ordinances, and doing his best Trump II imitation by playing down the virus' threat, fighting with the Florida press, and portraying himself as a maverick under attack. He also foolishly placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump.
In recent weeks though, the Beltway media have rallied to the southern governor’s cause. They’re holding him up as a rare Republican Covid star, pushing GOP talking points about how DeSantis has steered the Sunshine State into "boom” times, and suggesting the pandemic has thrust him to the front of the 2024 White House line.
Despite 32,000 Covid deaths in the state, as well as a mediocre at best vaccination rollout, journalists are lining up to do the Republican's bidding.
“How Ron DeSantis Won The Pandemic,” was the Politico headline Thursday night, for a big write-up that read like it was written by the governor’s press office. The Republican deserves huge praise, readers were told, because his pandemic decisions, “have ended up being, on balance, short of or even the opposite of ruinous.” Can the press post the bar any lower?
"After a year of criticism by health experts, mockery from comedians and blistering critiques from political rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is standing unabashedly tall among the nation's governors on the front lines of the coronavirus fight," CNN cheered this week. The report then quoted DeSantis boasting about his Covid record from a recent fundraising appeal, yet CNN raised no objections to the governor raising money off tens of thousands of pandemic deaths.
CNN suggested the "defiant and combative" DeSantis deserves a Covid star turn despite the fact, "Florida lands nearly in the middle of all states on a variety of coronavirus metrics." (With tourism floundering, the state’s also drowning in a $2.7 billion budget shortfall.)
Indeed, Florida's deaths per 100,000 population rate is nearly identical to California and New York, where Democratic governors are not currently being toasted by the Beltway press. DeSantis and his allies argue those two blue states have implemented much harsher lockdown and social distancing measures, while Floridians have been able to roam freely, therefore making DeSantis a success. But scientists note Florida's humid climate may have helped keep the death rate low.
In a recent report about Florida's supposed Covid success story, the New York Times quoted DeSantis bragging, “If you look at South Florida right now, this place is booming." He added, "You can live like a human being. You aren’t locked down. People aren’t miserable.” (No Democratic officials were quoted in the Times piece to offer a counter perspective.)
Politico last month applauded the "wonky" Florida governor and his Covid-fueled rise in Republican politics: "Conservatives are relishing the contrast and holding up DeSantis as an example of effective governance."
In terms of a Republican presidential primary, it's likely a large percentage of voters still think the virus is a "hoax," and bashing science could play well for candidates like DeSantis. But the way that Politico so casually presented DeSantis' Covid track record of 30,000-plus deaths as being a remarkable accomplishment that he can use as a springboard for national office simply highlighted the absurd (nonexistent?) standard the Beltway press often uses for grading Republican politicians.
Note that some local Florida journalists often don't display the same, fawning enthusiasm as the D.C. press. "From the pandemic’s infancy, DeSantis has conveniently, even diabolically, airbrushed Covid-19 out of public life here," Florida's Lizette Alvarez wrote late last year. "The result: 1.2 million total covid-19 cases, nearly 61,000 total hospitalizations and a new seven-day case-positivity rate of 9.7 percent — all rapidly rising toward crisis levels."
And from Nate Monroe in the Florida Times-Union: "Florida has, by the most generous accounting, just barely lurched through to the (hopeful) end of the pandemic under the leadership of Ron DeSantis — neither a particular success story nor the epitome of failure. Just average devastation."
For the Beltway press, average devastation now counts as a Republican win.
(Photo Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
⚖️ GOOD STUFF:
Remember former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson? She was a hardcore Obama critic a decade ago, and has since disappeared into the swamp of right-wing media where she belongs. (I think she currently works at Sinclair Broadcasting.)
Attkisson wrecked her credibility years ago in many ways. One key episode came in 2012. While she was at CBS, she claimed her at-home computer started acting strangely and that “experts” had told her she’d been the target of an illegal wiretapping. So she sued. This week a federate judge threw the case out.
From Politico’s “Judge Tosses Journalist’s Surveillance Lawsuit Against Rod Rosenstein”:
Attkisson filed a new suit in federal court in Baltimore last year, asserting that a source had come forward to confess involvement in the wiretapping. Attkisson said that source said the effort was an outgrowth of a Baltimore-based federal law enforcement operation targeting illegal activity on the so-called dark web, the Silk Road Task Force.
The source was initially anonymous but later identified by Attkisson’s attorneys as Ryan White, an alleged former FBI informant. White is a QAnon conspiracy adherent who appears to have been the source of bizarre child-abuse allegations that Georgia attorney Lin Wood leveled at Chief Justice John Roberts last year, according to a report in the Daily Beast.
☀️ FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Benny Blanco, Marshmello & Vance Joy, “You”
A producer, a DJ, and a singer collaborate here for the new uplifting pop-rock-R&B single, “You.” “This song makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside and I hope everyone else gets the same feeling when they listen,” Blanco recently told Rolling Stone.
I do. Also, who doesn’t like a claymation music video?
Oh, you, only you
When the night is over out of all the places I could choose
I go to you, only you
Feel you just below the surface, darling
All I wanna do is go to you