When thousands of Florida seniors were waiting in long lines for a Covid-19 vaccine this past January, Fox News and Gov. Ron DeSantis were plotting to broadcast a public vaccination event exclusively on the network in order to boost the governor’s image. And according to an exposé by the Tampa Bay Times, which obtained emails between the network and governor’s office, that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the cozy relationship between DeSantis and Fox News.
The Tampa Bay Times examined 1,250 pages of email correspondence between Fox and DeSantis’s office that show the close relationship the governor has with the network. During the broadcast of the vaccination event, DeSantis made comments and jokes as a 100-year-old veteran of World War II got his first dose. Beforehand, DeSantis’s office provided talking points.
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When the event concluded, a Fox producer wrote to a DeSantis staff member, “I honestly think he could host the show with the chops we saw from him at the vaccine site.” In other emails, producers lavished praise on the governor, with one gushing that DeSantis “spoke wonderfully at CPAC.” Another producer called him “the future of the party.”
The network’s love for the governor was so strong, Fox shows asked DeSantis to appear on the network 113 times, almost once a day, between the 2020 election and the end of February 2021.
According to the records the paper obtained, DeSantis most frequently appears on morning and primetime Fox News shows — eight times with Sean Hannity, six with Tucker Carlson, and seven with Laura Ingraham within the first six months of this year — and has avoided requests to appear with hosts like Bret Baier and Chris Wallace, who might ask him tougher questions.
DeSantis’s office has even supplied the network with graphics to use during the governor’s interviews on air. In one instance, when DeSantis appeared on a show guest hosted by Maria Bartiromo, the network displayed a graphic adapted from the governor’s office without disclosing its origins. Fox claimed to the Tampa Bay Times that it’s “a common practice in television and is not unique to Fox News.”
And, of course, there was DeSantis’s infamous signing of a voter suppression bill this past May where the governor’s office only invited Fox & Friends to carry the event, blocking all other media from entering. At the time, the network denied coordinating with the governor’s office for the exclusive, but emails from earlier in the year show producers were eager to get “exclusives” with DeSantis. It’s a bill perfectly tailored for Fox News’s conservative audience, which is likely why he signed it in front of Fox’s cameras only. After the event, he said he was “happy to give [Fox News] the exclusive on that.”
A DeSantis spokesperson, Taryn Fenske, told the paper why DeSantis chooses to appear on Fox. “While other networks were busy lauding states whose governors have either retired in disgrace or are undergoing a recall, Fox News was willing to hear our perspective and report the facts,” she told the Tampa Bay Times.
But Republican media strategist, Adam Goodman, told the paper that the network is essentially auditioning DeSantis for a presidential run. And that gives him a leg up against potential competitors, as data from recent polls reveal that without Trump in the race, DeSantis has a huge advantage — likely because he’s replaced Trump as the network’s new darling.
“He’s been given the first Fox audition for 2024, which also means he gets to set the bar,” Goodman said. “That means all the other competitors, when they have their chance to have their day on Fox, there’s a measuring stick that they’re going to be up against, and that’s the governor of Florida.”
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