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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: desantis covid

Why GOP-Friendly Politico Is About To Get Worse

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Is Politico jumping out the frying pan and into the fire?

The influential bible for savvy-obsessed Beltway insiders, Politico already has a strong tendency to disappoint by viewing the world through a Republican prism. Eagerly propping up Dems in Disarray storylines, Politico remains committed to portraying Republicans as being forever shrewd, and stands at the ready to amplify whatever phony outrage the GOP is pushing.

It was Politico that that famously detailed "How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic" this year, after 30,000 Floridians had already died from the virus. Today, the Sunshine State remains a global epicenter of the raging virus. The "won" coverage was part of Politico's larger, and wildly misguided, DeSantis charm offensive:

• "Covid wars launch DeSantis into GOP 'top tier'

• "Ron DeSantis Is Very Pleased With Himself"

"I consistently remind you that Politico is terrible," journalist Soledad O'Brien recently reminded her Twitter followers.

Politico's hallmark, clickbait failures are likely to become more pronounced because the publication was just sold for $1 billion to an openly conservative media giant based in Germany, Axel Springer. Named after the company's founder who has been referred to as Germany's Rupert Murdoch, all Springer employees must pledge their allegiance to the company's "Essentials":

1. We stand up for freedom, the rule of law, democracy and a united Europe.
2. We support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel.
3. We advocate the transatlantic alliance between the United States of America and Europe.
4. We uphold the principles of a free market economy and its social responsibility.
5. We reject political and religious extremism and all forms of racism and sexual discrimination.

Politico employees will not have to sign the pledge, according to the New York Times. Still, they will understand what the clear political leanings of their German owners are and that they demand fealty, which could lead American journalists to pander to their bosses. (News reporters signing any kind of worldview "pledge" is a bad idea.)

In a strange, collective oversight though, virtually none of the mainstream media coverage about the blockbuster, $1 billion deal has mentioned the proud conservative preferences of Politico's new owner. That salient fact regarding the purchase of a powerful political media outlet in Washington, D.C., has been conveniently ignored. Reuters, CNN, CNBC, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal all covered the Politico sale without mentioning the buyer's politics.

If an unabashedly liberal, international publisher that demanded its employees sign an oath supporting socialism had swooped in to buy a mainstay of American political journalism, do you think its partisan DNA would be mentioned in the news coverage? I certainly do. In fact, it would be mentioned in every headline.

The deafening media silence is curious since over the years Axel Springer's rightward lurch has not been a secret. Two years ago, The Guardian profiled the "German company founded in 1945 by the rightwing publisher of the same name." When the founder died back in 1985 the Los Angeles Times was straightforward. "Axel Springer, Conservative W. German Publisher, Dies," read the headline. The Times noted that all of Springer's media properties "served as staunch supporters of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's conservative Christian Democratic Union."

As The Tablet observed recently, "Springer was the closest thing that the Germans had to a Rupert Murdoch. Springer's politics were decidedly conservative: capitalist (though comfortable with the German consensus on a "social market economy"); traditionalist; ferociously anti-communist, and pro-American. And much as Murdoch has come to embody everything that bien pensant liberals loathe, Springer was hated by the West German left."

In 1952, Springer founded Bild, a national tabloid daily that soon became the most-read newspaper in Europe, with a circulation that peaked at 6 million. Der Spiegel once characterized the paper as "serv[ing] up tripe, trash, tits and, almost as an afterthought, a healthy dose of hard news seven days a week." It added that Bild, "has taken on the role of a right-wing populist party, which does not yet exist in Germany."

Over the years "Bild decried long hair on men and the marriage of its top models to foreigners. It genuflected before South African apartheid, Greek dictatorship, Bavarian sedans and American Pershing missiles," The Guardian noted. Today, "Bild'smain attack targets remain Germany's "Gutmenschen" – the do-gooders, vegetarians, Greens and 1968ers who are treated as parasites and irritants to Germany's robust economy and middle class."

Added the Columbia Journalism Review, "Some aspects of Bild's conservatism would be familiar to any weary observer of the US culture wars."

The daily recently launched its own TV station, which the Irish Times dubbed "a milder, German equivalent of Fox News."

That's who now owns Politico, which is only going to get worse.

New York Times Puffs DeSantis — And Blisters Biden

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Within the span of 24 hours, the New York Times provided more evidence that the paper treats the two political parties differently, especially when it comes to Democratic and Republican leaders facing crisis. In this case, it's President Joe Biden grappling with the U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, versus Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state became a global epicenter for Covid this summer.

The Times showed how it's willing to normalize atrocious behavior by Republicans while holding Democrats to unfair standards.

On Sunday, the paper published a striking whitewash of DeSantis' nearly criminal actions regarding Covid this year. Eying a White House run in 2024, and hoping to tap into the GOP's anti-science base, DeSantis has played politics with public health. He's tried to bar schools from mandating masks, stood in the way of hospital vaccine mandates, and demanded cruise lines allow unvaccinated passengers to set sail. He even placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump. And now the state is paying a steep price for his cavalier governance.

"The viral load in Florida is so high right now, there are only two places on the planet where it's higher," Dr. Jonathan Reiner recently told CNN. "It's so high in Florida that I think that if Florida were another country, we would have to consider banning travel from Florida to the United States."

Yet reading the Times' Sunday article you'd think DeSantis, who is referenced just four times in the lengthy piece, was a bit player in this man-made drama. You'd think the Sunshine State's descent into mass Covid death was some kind of unavoidable, twist of fate. "Exactly why the state has been so hard-hit remains an elusive question," the Times reported, naively throwing up its hands.

The daily also engaged in misinformation when it claimed Florida under DeSantis "emphasized vaccinations" and "made a strong push" to innoculate people. "Florida State Representative, here. This is ridiculous," tweeted Democrat Omarji Hardy, responding to the Times. "There was not anything resembling a "strong push" for vaccinations in Florida."

The Times piece didn't bother quoting a single DeSantis critic, even though just days earlier Miami Mayor Dan Gelber had announced unequivocally that DeSantis' policies "are literally killing people."

Compare that brand of kid-glove analysis to the Times page-one piece by White House correspondent Peter Baker on Saturday, who suggested the Afghanistan troop withdrawal was entirely Biden's doing, the president used questionable judgement, and Biden's responsible for U.S. loss of life.

Unlike the DeSantis piece, the Time's Biden article was overflowing with quotes from his critics, eager to second guess. In fact, the first person Baker quoted was someone who worked on President George W. Bush's Iraq War team; the war that doomed U.S. to failure in Afghanistan. One week earlier, Baker had been on the front page with another Afghanistan piece, implying Biden was incompetent and lacked empathy, two descriptions the paper won't apply to DeSantis.

Over this weekend, the Times also published a nasty opinion piece, which called the evacuation of 120,000 people from the Kabul airport "incompetent," and suggested Biden, whose late son served in the Iraq War, does not "value" men and women who serve our country.

The Times POV couldn't be clearer: DeSantis is trying his best, Biden's in over his head.

The Times' Sunday DeSantis whitewash, which was widely criticized online, represents a larger pattern by the newspaper to run interference for the Republican governor this year. Three weeks ago, the Times again tried to normalize DeSantis' dangerous behavior, suggesting that outlawing mask mandates and threatening to withhold pay from teachers during a pandemic might be the new normal [emphasis added]:

If, however, Florida comes through another virus peak with both its hospital system and economy intact, Mr. DeSantis's game of chicken with the deadly pandemic could become a model for how to coexist with a virus that is unlikely to ever fully vanish.

Amazing — if DeSantis' policies don't obliterate Florida's healthcare system and its economy, then maybe he's creating a new model. That Times article also failed to quote a single DeSantis critic, in a look at how the controversial Republican was managing the pandemic.

The newspaper actually began covering for DeSantis back in April when the Times published a front-page valentine, typing up his press office spin about how Florida was "booming" and he had somehow figured out how to carve out a Covid-free region for the Sunshine State. "In a country just coming out of the morose grip of coronavirus lockdowns, Florida feels unmistakably hot," the Times gushed.

All three DeSantis stories were written by the paper's Miami bureau chief Patricia Mazzei. Why would she seemingly go out of her way to provide cover for DeSantis as he eyes a likely presidential run? My guess is it has to do with access and maintaining cordial relations with DeSantis' communications team, which I guarantee was thrilled with the latest Times dispatch from Florida.

If and when DeSantis runs for president, journalists who are covering him now likely want to be assigned to his campaign, which would then serve as their ticket out of Florida. That's how the Beltway media game is played — scores of reporters who covered George W. Bush in Texas were rewarded with campaign assignments and then re-assigned to cover him in Washington, D.C.

Fact: It's not too late for the Times to fix its Florida coverage.

Poll: Floridians In Revolt Against DeSantis Pandemic Failure

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' crusade against masking and other pandemic mitigation efforts isn't playing well for him among Floridians, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

The fact that 60 percent of Floridians support in-school masking, according to the poll, is nothing short of an indictment of DeSantis' failing leadership as his state suffers its most deadly period in the pandemic.

  • By 61 percent to 33 percent, Floridians say the recent spike in COVID-19 cases was preventable
  • 73 percent of Floridians currently view the surge as a serious problem
  • 59 percent say the pandemic's spread is out of control in the state

The public also broadly disagrees with the policies DeSantis has been pushing for months—policies that endanger their lives, including those of their children.

  • 68 percent say local officials should be able to require masks in indoor public spaces
  • 69 percent say it's a bad idea to withhold pay for school officials who vote to require masking (which the DeSantis administration is currently in the process of doing), while just 25 percent support it
  • 59 percent support requiring everyone to wear masks while in indoor public spaces
  • 63 percent say masking is primarily a public health issue, with just 33 percent saying it's more about personal freedom
  • 62 percent say health care workers should be required to get vaccinated, just 33 percent oppose it
  • 60 percent favor vaccine mandates for teachers, just 36 percent oppose them

The poll also found that DeSantis was underwater regarding whether residents think he is helping the situation or making it worse.

While 41 percent say that Governor Ron DeSantis is helping efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Florida, 46 percent say he is hurting efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Twelve percent did not offer an opinion.

DeSantis picked a fight on masking—choosing to champion the fringe 'personal freedom' crowd over the lives of children. He is now facing a massive revolt among Florida schools and, the polling suggests, a loss of confidence among the electorate.

DeSantis Following Trump’s Failed Pandemic Playbook

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

In May 2020, just a couple months into the nation's explosion of coronavirus cases, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis traveled to the White House to brag about beating COVID-19 in his state.

"We've succeeded," DeSantis said, accusing the media of spinning a "typical partisan narrative" about what the trajectory of the virus would be in his state.

"You've got a lot of people in your profession who wax poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was going to be just like New York," he told reporters. "Hell, we're eight weeks away from that, and it hasn't happened," he continued.

One month later, reality caught up with DeSantis when cases spiked and he quickly ordered bar closures across the state.

A little over a year later, DeSantis is making COVID-19 headlines again, but not for his efforts to contain a virus he had prematurely declared victory over. Rather, the Florida governor is demonstrating a remarkably callous disregard for human life as his state is swamped by the pandemic.

As of Friday, Florida hospitals were treating some 17,000 COVID-19 patients, including more than 3,550 in intensive care, according to tallies by the Washington Post. The need for oxygen to treat patients has become so dire in some regions that Orlando officials implored residents Friday to conserve water in order to preserve the liquid oxygen used in water treatment.

At the same time, heated disputes over masking in schools are erupting as children return to school andthousands of students and staff have already been forced to either isolate or quarantine. DeSantis himself helped stoke the mask fury by banning school districts from requiring universal masking—the only available line of defense for kids under 12 and too young to get the vaccine.

When some school districts revolted by issuing mask mandates anyway, DeSantis threatened to dock the pay of school officials who implemented mandates. At least five of Florida's 67 school districts have now defied DeSantis' ban, including the state's largest and second largest districts, Miami-Dade and Broward.

While his state convulses with chaos, anxiety, illness, and death, DeSantis is happily preening and punishing for the cameras.

On Friday, DeSantis' handpicked Board of Education announced school officials in Broward and Alachua counties—two of the first to implement mask mandates—would lose their salaries unless they reversed their masking policy in the next couple days. The threat very well may not shake their resolve, as both President Biden and citizen activists have pledged to make up for any shortfall in funding.

Politically, taking punitive action against school districts that mandate masks is an abysmal move, with just 22% of Americans supporting the idea. But what's a GOP 2024 hopeful to care when Fox News is salivating to give him primetime slots even as he ensures COVID-19 will inflict maximal damage on his constituents.

In fact, a lengthy investigative report by the Tampa Bay Times found that DeSantis had scheduled more meetings with Fox's Sean Hannity in the first half of 2021 than with his own lieutenant governor. Meanwhile, the governor has failed to schedule even a single one-on-one meeting this year with Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, the state's top public health official, according to the Tampa Bay Times piece.

DeSantis clearly has the Fox sweepstakes tied up and therefore nothing else matters to him, not even anguish and death in his state. It's a dodgy political bet for a guy who beat his Democratic challenger in 2018 by less than half a point, 49.6% - 49.2%, and Democrats are eager to capitalize on it.

Two Democratic candidates for governor, Rep. Charlie Crist (who's also the state's former governor) and Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, have been ripping DeSantis' handling of the surge. This week, Crist launched a "five figure" statewide ad buy including two counties that implemented mask mandates.

"Florida leads the nation in new Covid cases, jammed hospitals and deaths," Crist says in the ad. "And now Ron DeSantis wants to defund schools where they're asking kids to wear a mask."

This week, political journalists spent an inordinate amount of time flogging President Biden for the chaotic and tragic scenes streaming out of Afghanistan. The quickly evolving humanitarian crisis there and massive U.S. evacuation effort is an important story, no doubt. But among reporters favorite things to do was to play a clip of Biden claiming several weeks ago there was "no circumstance" in which people would be airlifted off a U.S. embassy as they were in Saigon at the end of Vietnam. "It is not at all comparable," Biden insistedin an early July press conference. Then journalists would immediately cut to the anguished crowds in Kabul at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

At the beginning of this week, I argued the next several weeks of news out of Afghanistan could be brutal for Biden politically but that Democrats should stay focused on the president's domestic agenda as it could likely be among the most consequential issues in 2022.

The story in Afghanistan is far from over and it's impossible to know at this point how it will end and what narratives will ultimately prevail in voters' minds. The issue will almost certainly be litigated in the 2024 presidential race, but more than likely next year's midterms will be dominated by the pandemic and economic-related matters.

In important swing states like Arizona and Florida—where governors' deliberately put kids in harm's way to score political points—their abysmal pandemic policies will get top billing. Floridians can get ready to see a lot of ads with DeSantis declaring, "We've succeeded" and celebrating victories for "freedom" against a backdrop of raucous school board meetings, rising coronavirus infections, and kids engulfed in a maze of tubes in Florida ICUs.

A quick review of the digital front pages of news outlets in South Florida, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville reveals not a single story about Afghanistan. All but one of them led with a pandemic related story (tropical storm Henri got top billing in the Orlando Sentinel), and they all included at least one story impugning DeSantis, such as, "Ron DeSantis' colossal COVID-19 gamble: schools, vaccinations, masks—and his political future" or "Florida's COVID deaths climb as children lead state in positivity rate."

DeSantis isn't only a depraved narcissist, he seems to have forgotten the pandemic sunk Donald Trump, who also got so hopped up on Fox News bluster that he assumed he was politically invincible.

The Beltway Press Must Own Its DeSantis Debacle

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

As Covid rages on in Florida, turning the Sunshine State not only into a virus epicenter of the United States but of the entire world, news organizations aren't being honest about the public health crisis under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. They're not being transparent about how months ago they embraced GOP spin and portrayed the derelict governor as a pandemic star, regurgitating conservative rhetoric about how liberal critics had been proven wrong about DeSantis' wrong-headed policy decisions, which have since propelled Florida into a grave health crisis.

The state recently broke its one-day record for new Covid cases, topping out at 21,000which is as many new cases as the entire country of France tabulates each day. Florida now has more than 12,000 (unvaccinated) people occupying hospital beds battling Covid, another grim benchmark under DeSantis. It's unthinkable that the state has been plunged into public health chaos when a safe vaccine is readily available to all Floridians over the age of 12.

At a time when states are supposed to be emerging from the year-and-a-half pandemic, Florida is shifting into reverse – it recently recorded more coronavirus cases this week than California, Texas, New York and Illinois combined. This all comes 15 months after DeSantis famously, and loudly, declared victory over the pandemic, back when the state was tallying 500 cases a day.

This debacle, and the media's refusal to be transparent about how badly it managed the DeSantis story, says as much about the state of the Beltway media as it does about this burgeoning Covid chapter.

For an industry that demands transparency and accountability from public officials, the political press is terrible at conceding its mistakes, especially when those blunders are documented by liberals. Programmed to fear charges of liberal media bias, the Beltway press often scrambles to correct supposed failures highlighted by conservatives. Hyper-sensitive to bad-faith, right-wing critiques and eager to make nice with those accusers, journalists uniformly look away when confronted by the left with irrefutable evidence of failure. And boy, did they screw up the DeSantis story.

This spring, journalists eagerly touted DeSantis' supposed virus leadership— it was Politico that announced, "How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic." This, after 30,000 Floridians had already died from the virus and after the governor foolishly placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump.

"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, adding that DeSantis remained "defiant and combative." CNN suggested he deserved a star turn because "Florida lands nearly in the middle of all states on a variety of coronavirus metrics" — talk about a low bar.

"Vindication for Ron DeSantis," the Wall Street Journal announced. The New York Times cheered, "In a country just coming out of the morose grip of coronavirus lockdowns, Florida feels unmistakably hot."

Not one of those news outlets, that I've seen or heard, has addressed its glowing DeSantis coverage, or explained to news consumers how and why newsrooms rushed in to paint the Republican as a Covid savior, only to watch the state now grapple with a man-made crisis.

Incredibly, DeSantis is still getting the media's benefit of doubt.

The New York Times on Tuesday published a column from Alex Azar, who served as secretary of health and human services under Trump, praising DeSantis for helping spread a pro-vaccine message to voters. That's an absurd thing to be saying in August 2021. The truth is, DeSantis went AWOL for most of this year on the topic of vaccines.

Watching the Republican Party and Fox News embrace dangerous, anti-vaccine rhetoric, DeSantis didn't want to be out of step as he eyes a possible presidential run in 2024. Instead of acting as the steward of a vulnerable local population, DeSantis abdicated his responsibilities for partisan reasons. Yet today, he receives praise in the pages of the Times.

And when the governor recently took the extraordinary irresponsible move of forbidding local school districts from mandating masks for students if needed to battle local virus surges, CNN ran a pro-GOP chyron while reporting the story: "DeSantis signs executive order giving parents power to choose whether to mask kids at school."

The news outlet most in need of some DeSantis self-reflection is Politico, which essentially doubled as the governor's communications shop last winter and spring, churning out three separate cheerleading pieces for the Florida Republican:

• "Covid wars launch DeSantis into GOP 'top tier'

• "How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic"

• "Ron DeSantis Is Very Pleased With Himself"

That last piece clocked in at 8,000 words (!!), and read like it had been ghost-written by DeSantis' spokesperson. "He was right," read the first sentence, and the glowing profile continued from there, detailing how DeSantis had foiled his critics by producing some sort of miraculous Covid oasis in the Sunshine State. "He is basking in a moment of reassessment of what and how he has done—and also of what it might mean, not just for his and his state's political future but that of the nation."

Everybody makes mistakes. And holding DeSantis up as Republican Covid hero was a doozy. Now the press needs to address that failure.

Remember When DeSantis 'Won The Pandemic'?

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Florida has become a Covid-19 debacle, again.

Now accounting for one-in-every five new cases nationwide, the Sunshine State under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has emerged as a beacon of irresponsibility. Not that he seems to care.

Off visiting Texas recently to take part in more GOP photo-ops at the border, DeSantis often brushes off the pandemic bad news. "It's a seasonal virus and this is the seasonal pattern it follows in the Sun Belt states," he said this week. (He blamed "quote-unquote 'experts'" for criticizing the unvaccinated.) The governor is busy though, selling anti-vaccine merchandise, like "Don't Fauci My Florida" t-shirts.

Question: Does the Beltway press care about the state's drastic Covid U-turn? This spring, journalists lionized DeSantis' supposed virus leadership— it was Politico that announced, "How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic." This, after 30,000 Floridians had already died from the virus.

This is the same DeSantis who spent last year trying to silence scientists, covering up data, rescinding mask ordinances, playing down the virus' threat, fighting with the Florida press, and portraying himself as a maverick under attack. He even foolishly placed one million orders of hydroxychloroquine in tribute to Trump.

The irony is that DeSantis is now facing a Covid crisis specifically because his supporters — Republicans — aren't getting vaccinated at the same rate as others in the state. If they were, Florida, and the rest of the country, would be approaching herd immunity. Instead, the proudly unvaccinated MAGA's are driving the Florida meltdown, with some counties reporting that new cases are coming 100 percent from those who refused to get the shot. Still, DeSantis won't act. He won't lead.

The Orlando Sentinel editorial page recently read the governor the riot act over his dereliction of duty:

At the moment, it's as if DeSantis has washed his hands of the matter and moved on to elections, borders, critical race theory, mocking Fauci or whatever else will get him a headline.
And every few days, nearly as many people are dying from COVID as died in the recent collapse of a condominium in South Florida.
Please, governor, we're begging you, handle the COVID problem. Be a leader.

How bad is Florida?

• New Covid cases are up nearly 200 percent over the past two weeks.

• Florida is third in the nation in per capita increases, accounting for nearly 20 perecent of the entire nation's new infections.

•The rate of positive tests is now well above 10 percent.

• Florida now boasts the fourth-highest rate of hospitalizations and the nation's highest average for daily deaths.

•The state's vaccination rate, 57 percent, remains a mediocre embarrassment.

• The Sunshine State has the second lowest rate of vaccinated nursing home workers in the country.

All of this makes the media's torrent of DeSantis valentines earlier this year look inexcusable. Beltway scribes lined up to tell the same story over and over: Democratic critics were wrong about DeSantis, Covid, and Florida, and now he's riding high within the GOP. They eagerly held him up as a rare Republican Covid star, pushing GOP talking points about how DeSantis had steered the Sunshine State into "boom" times.

"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, adding that DeSantis remained "defiant and combative."

"Vindication for Ron DeSantis," the Wall Street Journal announced.

Politico 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 a 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." (No Democratic officials were quoted in the Times piece to offer a counter perspective.)

I understand why DeSantis' communications teams wanted to get those stories placed in the national press — he clearly has his eyes on a White House run. But why did Beltway journalists play along and type up a series of extended press releases, pretending that DeSantis alone had figured out how to defeat a global pandemic by battling health officials urging caution and common sense?

As the Delta variant runs wild, will journalists who lauded DeSantis in the spring admit they got the story wrong, and tell the truth about the Covid disaster that Florida has become?