Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis responded Monday to the Associated Press (AP) after the media outlet accused his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, of “harassing” one of its reporters who wrote a “defamatory” article about the COVID-19 antibody treatment promoted by his office. DeSantis claimed that AP received a well-deserved backlash for its “partisan” publication that could cost innocent lives.
In a letter to the AP’s new executive editor, Daisy Veerasingham, DeSantis singled out the media outlet for its “recklessness” in complaining about criticism one of its reporters received last week for writing a “misleading” piece about Regeneron’s COVID-19 treatment.
In its piece, the AP reporter suggested that DeSantis’ office promoted the monoclonal antibody treatment to benefit one of his political donors, who also reportedly invested in the company that created the new and effective drug against the virus.
Veerasingham wrote to his office directly to accuse Pushaw of “harassing behavior” and of activating an “online mob” against AP reporter Brendan Farrington, who headlined, “DeSantis’ top donor invests in an anti-COVID drug the governor promotes.”
In his open letter, DeSantis personally responded to the AP’s accusations.
“I assumed your letter was to notify me that you were retracting the partisan smear piece you published last week,” the governor wrote. “Instead, you had the temerity to complain about the well-deserved backlash your failed and discredited attempt to invent a political narrative has received,” he continued.
The governor added, “His strategy will not work to divert attention from the fact that the Associated Press published a false narrative that will lead some to reject effective COVID treatment.”
Interestingly, the AP story acknowledged the drug’s high effectiveness as a treatment for COVID-19, and that DeSantis’ donor has donated less to Regeneron than Democratic donors like BlackRock. It further acknowledged that “it is not unusual for hedge funds to have a wide range of investments.”
The AP story also noted that the aforementioned DeSantis donor, Citadel, has invested in Regeneron “a small fraction of its $39 billion in total investments.”
DeSantis wrote that AP presented “no evidence” that Florida’s efforts were undertaken for any reason other than to help citizens suffering from the disease.
“While the public’s trust in corporate media like AP is at historic lows, there is no doubt that some will refuse to seek life-saving treatment as a result of AP’s inflammatory headline,” he wrote.
In AP’s letter to DeSantis, he accused Pushaw of inciting his audience to “systematically bully” the author of the story. “While we may disagree about stories, it is unacceptable and dangerous for a public official to encourage systemic bullying of journalists,” Veerasingham wrote.
To such an accusation against his press secretary, DeSantis responded that AP should have expected a response of “vigorous pushback” in the face of his “reckless defamation.”
“You can’t recklessly smear your political opponents and then expect to be immune from criticism,” DeSantis wrote, highlighting AP’s diminished credibility.
“The corporate media’s ‘clicks first, facts later’ journalistic approach is hurting our country. You succeeded in publishing a misleading and deceptive headline about one of your political opponents at the expense of deterring people infected with COVID from seeking effective treatment, which will cost lives,” continued the governor, who ended with the question, “Was it worth it?”