I love Ron DeSantis. Aside from all of the political stuff, which we will get to in a moment, Florida’s governor is the last best hope for Republicans on the national stage now that Kristi Noem has decided to dance lightly around the issue of trans female athletes and the NCAA. DeSantis is also Italian, and, if my studies at Ancestry.com are correct, most likely a paisan from the Abruzzi region, from which my own ancestors originated. Heck, we’re probably six degrees from Luciano Pavarotti.
As far as his politics are concerned, DeSantis has been able to withstand a wave of criticism, innuendo, and blatant lies better than other conservative not named Ronald Reagan. The most recent attempt to undermine his credibility, the notorious “60 Minutes” piece that deceptively edited his answer to a question about what CBS wants us to believe is a pay-to-play agreement with the Publix supermarket chain, was journalistic malpractice.
When challenged, CBS gave the excuse that they edited his detailed answer for “clarity,” citing “common journalistic practice.” But according to a report from Al Tompkins of the nonpartisan Poynter Institute, “While it made for interesting television, it didn’t make for complete truth.”
When challenged, CBS gave the excuse that they edited his detailed answer for ‘clarity,’ citing ‘common journalistic practice.’
Or as Kellyanne Conway might say, it presented alternative facts.
DeSantis should probably thank CBS and “60 Minutes” for the hatchet job. When you have largely apolitical media watchdogs like the Poynter Institute agreeing that you’ve been “deceptively edited,” it will only make your stock rise with your supporters. It should also give your knee-jerk critics a moment of pause, and encourage them to examine their own preconceived biases.
If only Poynter would turn its gaze to Pennsylvania, they’d find that our own governor has been able to say and do nearly whatever he pleases, ignore dissent, slander his political enemies, and normalize such a non-transparent environment that virtually everything that comes out of his mouth is an alternative fact that’s too often accepted by the media.
Let’s start with Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s erstwhile secretary of health.
Dr. Levine spent days at the beginning of the pandemic trying to convince us that nursing homes were safe for our parents and elderly loved ones. The official reports issued by the Pa. Department of Health seemed to corroborate that assertion. But independent investigations into data collection and dissemination conducted by Spotlight PA showed that Levine was either disingenuous or lying when she said that the state had accurately accounted for nursing home deaths. Spotlight PA found that the weekly reports issued by the health department consistently underreported the incidence of fatalities in nursing homes, and that information from almost 20% of the state’s 693 elder care facilities was missing. Maine’s Senator Susan Collins suggested that Levine had lied to her about the “accurate” accounting of those deaths.
Independent investigations into data collection and dissemination showed that Levine was either disingenuous or lying when she said that the state had accurately accounted for nursing home deaths.
But, of course, Levine was confirmed to her new position in the federal government, and her former boss did a little victory lap.
One can only imagine the headlines if Levine had worked for DeSantis: “Florida Governor Conspired with Health Department Head to Hide Nursing Home Fatalities.”
There was also that time Tom Wolf decided to deny kids in religious school the federal monies they were entitled to under the CARES Act. That bill was designed to assist ailing schools, public and private, to deal with the problems created by the pandemic. Wolf announced that private schools, most of which had some religious affiliation, wouldn’t get the same amount of funding as public schools because, in his estimation, this would have provided an unfair advantage to already “privileged” children.
Ignoring the fact that many of the children enrolled in religious and parochial schools come from underprivileged backgrounds and immigrant communities, he made a move to divert over 60% of the funds that should have been available under a federal formula for religious schools to districts.
If DeSantis had tried to divert funding from wealthy district schools to private schools in low-income areas, the headline would have read: “Florida Governor Shifts Money From Public Education to Well-Connected Religious Groups.”
And then there was the abysmal way the vaccine was rolled out in Pennsylvania, causing people to become desperate and confused while figuring out how and where to access their shots. Your ability to protect yourself from infection depended on where you lived (hopefully not Philadelphia), who you knew, and how many hours you had to spend at your computer pressing the “refresh” button while using four-letter words. The governor has emerged relatively unscathed, however, with most of the critiques directed toward mayors and other local officials.
Had DeSantis performed with the same level of mediocrity, you’d see this headline: “Florida Governor Creates Lord of the Flies Scenario with Vaccines; Only the Fittest Likely to Survive.
There are so many other fun fantasy headlines we could write if we had the time and the intestinal fortitude. Unfortunately for this writer, the nausea brought on by the media’s hypocrisy in treating a GOP governor as a villain and a Democrat governor as a saint, admittedly an exaggeration on both ends, prevents her from writing another word.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61