For two months, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been in the crosshairs of mainstream media for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They criticized the speed of his response, the scope of his response, and, now that his response has resulted in demonstrably fewer deaths than states like New York, they criticize the data that Florida produces.
DeSantis has answered.
There are plenty of examples one may find of bias in certain elements of media, but few more clearly demonstrate it on a measurable basis than the way the media has treated Ron DeSantis as opposed to New York governor Andrew Cuomo. To view the New York Times or CNN, you would think that Florida has ten times the deaths of New York, rather than the opposite.
So the frustration of DeSantis seems understandable here. Elements of the media set expectations that Florida, with its slower and less stringent lockdown orders and elderly population, would be a disaster area (confession: I thought it would be bad, too). These elements have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for Florida to turn bad. It has not happened. DeSantis is speaking up.
This tongue-lashing is, if anything, overdue. It is quickly gaining praise from the Right, which has grown increasingly frustrated at media mistreatment of governors like DeSantis and Brian Kemp. And, interestingly, it demonstrates how the GOP has changed with the election of Donald Trump.
Could you imagine either George Bush speaking out like this? No, of course not. Mitt Romney? The left called him a racist and a misogynist, and he wouldn’t so much as break into a frown. Trump has a number of weaknesses and flaws, but one thing that cannot be denied is that he is willing to fight. And while I share reservations about what Trumpism means for the GOP long-term, if his willingness to answer unfair attacks rubs off on other conservatives, it is a good thing.
This isn’t the end of the story, of course. There is a long road ahead. But that hasn’t kept elements of the media from rushing to conclusions and setting narratives, and DeSantis was quickly assigned a villain’s role in that narrative. All the media needed was the facts to come in to fit the story.
The facts came, but they weren’t the ones that the media were expecting. They never got the disaster they wanted. They never stopped taking shots.
And DeSantis just spiked the football in their face.