Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office objects to ‘misleadingly framed’ Orlando Sentinel story

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The office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R., has objected to what it calls another “misleadingly framed” article, this time an Orlando Sentinel story that claimed he doesn’t promote COVID vaccines as passionately as Regeneron treatment.

The piece by Steven Lemongello, “DeSantis promotes Regeneron COVID treatment but hasn’t pushed vaccines the same way in months,” ran in both the Orlando Sentinel and sister newspaper, the South Florida Sun Sentinel. It criticized the governor for traveling the state to promote Regeneron while “the last time he held an event specifically to encourage getting vaccinated was four months ago.”

The office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has objected to another "misleadingly framed" article.

“Instead, he’s downplayed the vaccines, citing the breakthrough infections the shots don’t prevent and the vaccines’ apparent failure to achieve herd immunity,” Lemongello wrote. “Critics say the governor is playing to a hardcore Republican base that’s skeptical to outright hostile of vaccines as DeSantis ramps up for a run for the presidency in 2024.” 

The story also quotes a University of Central Florida professor who admits DeSantis is “definitely not an anti-vaxxer” but scolds him for not holding pro-vaccine public relations campaigns. Another critic in the piece is identified as an “anti-Trump Republican turned independent,” and the writer scolds DeSantis’ office for “always” pointing to “50 or so vaccination events he held over the winter and spring” when asked why he hasn’t promoted the vaccine recently. 

The story then admits “DeSantis did hold near-daily press conferences and events at vaccination sites as the shots were being rolled out” but questions why such events have slowed down. 

DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw tweeted out a lengthy statement she said was sent to Lemongello before the story was published.

“There is no single policy priority that Governor DeSantis has devoted more time to this year than promoting COVID-19 vaccination. He did over 50 public appearances in 27 counties focused on the vaccines. At every Regeneron presser these days, he speaks positively of the vaccines and reminds Floridians that getting vaccinated prevents serious illness,” Pushaw wrote. “I think you will agree with me that all Floridians are aware of the existence of COVID vaccines by now, and the vast, vast majority of Floridians have easy access to them via CVS, Publix, and hundreds of other locations around the state.” 

Pushaw said the access to vaccines is a “credit to Governor DeSantis, DOH, DEM, and other partners” and the governor is now also trying to raise awareness for a proven monoclonal antibody treatment that many Floridians are unfamiliar with. 

“Vaccines and monoclonals are two of the most effective tools for fighting COVID-19. They are both clinically proven, safe, and authorized by the FDA,” she continued. “They are not mutually exclusive. Vaccines are for preventing severe illness; Regeneron is a treatment for those who are already infected.” 

Pushaw wrote that DeSantis hopes expanding access and raising awareness of the treatment will save lives but noted “it is preferable to not get sick in the first place, which is why vaccination is encouraged and free to all Floridians.” 

Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun Sentinel editor in chief Julie Anderson stands by the story despite criticism from Pushaw. 

“For those who closely watch DeSantis’s actions like our political reporter does, the fact that the governor shifted his focus from vaccines to Regeneron in April is obvious. As the lead in the story states, the governor has criss-crossed the state almost every day in the past two weeks promoting Regeneron but the last time he held an event to promote vaccines was four months ago,” Anderson told Fox News. 

“The story makes note that the governor held vaccine events when they first came out and includes the press secretary’s statement about that. It’s a fair and accurate story,” she added. 

Lemongello did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent directly to him. 

“Most of the press here don’t even try to hide their political activism. I still try my best to answer all their questions and provide comments to all who ask, but it’s frustrating when they completely disregard facts and plow ahead with The Narrative,” Pushaw wrote in a follow-up tweet. 

Feuding with the mainstream media has become commonplace for the Republican governor. 

“You can tell that the 2024 election season is in full swing when the major media try to nuke top GOP candidates. It’s almost a badge of honor when the press piles up hit job after hit job against you,” Media Research vice president Dan Gainor reecently told Fox News.

Last week, DeSantis and the Associated Press bickered over a story headlined, “DeSantis top donor invests in COVID drug governor promotes,” which seemed to imply the Florida Republican was promoting Regeneron because a Chicago-based hedge fund that donated to a political committee that supports him also owns shares of the company. 

The AP acknowledged in the story that it’s “not unusual for hedge funds to have a wide range of investments.” It also admitted that medical experts agree with DeSantis on the effectiveness of Regeneron and similar treatments, writing “The drugs, when given within 10 days of initial symptoms, have been shown to cut rates of hospitalization and death by roughly 70%.”

“The issue is that most people only read the headline. I have an issue with the headline because it frames it up as though there’s pay to play going on or a conflict of interest when there is not, and he admits as much in the article,” Pushaw told Fox News.

The AP stood by its story, which was widely mocked by critics and DeSantis supporters. 

DeSantis himself called the story a “partisan hit piece” during on “Hannity.” 

Earlier this year, DeSantis blasted “corporate media operatives” at CBS News’ “60 Minutes” over its widely criticized report on Florida’s coronavirus vaccine rollout and called on the show to “admit that it was false.”

DeSantis said CBS News producers talked to people who knew the story was wrong but “refused” to put them on the air. The report suggested DeSantis gave the Publix grocery store chain preferable treatment to offer the coronavirus vaccine based on its PAC’s donations to his PAC, but a bipartisan chorus in Florida rejected that framing.

Several news outlets, including The Miami Herald and CNN, have also elevated Rebekah Jones, the fired Florida health official who alleged that the DeSantis administration urged her to alter the state’s COVID data to push for reopenings last year. Critics have thoroughly refuted her claims, describing them as a “fake” conspiracy. 

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn and David Rutz contributed to this report. 

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