A trove of emails reveals the shocking extent to which the network, even by Fox standards, worked with Gov. Ron DeSantis (Death-FL) to boost his political prospects with fawning coverage – even as he shirked his day job of protecting Floridians from COVID-19.
Four months of correspondence between Fox and DeSantis totaled 1,250 pages, according to records obtained by Tampa Bay Times. The paper’s findings are jaw dropping, even to me, someone who has been following the “fair and balanced” network for more than a decade:
From the week of the 2020 election through February, the network asked DeSantis to appear on its airwaves 113 times, or nearly once a day. Sometimes, the requests came in bunches — four, five, even six emails in a matter of hours from producers who punctuated their overtures with flattery. (“The governor spoke wonderfully at CPAC,” one producer wrote in March.)
There are few surprises when DeSantis goes live with Fox. “Exclusive” events like Jan. 22 are carefully crafted with guidance from DeSantis’ team. Topics, talking points and even graphics are shared in advance.
Once, a Fox producer offered to let DeSantis pick the subject matter if he agreed to come on.
The result, the Times notes, is that DeSantis has gotten “a leg up” on other potential Republican presidential candidates.
Not surprisingly, DeSantis seems more interested in schmoozing with friendly media than in governing, even as the pandemic is ravaging Florida.
More from Tampa Bay Times:
In the first six months of 2021, DeSantis had scheduled as many appearances with top Fox hosts Hannity (8 times), Tucker Carlson (6) and Laura Ingraham (7) as he had meetings with his lieutenant governor, Jeanette Nuñez (7), according to his public calendar.
Meanwhile, the governor has not met one-on-one this year with Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, the state’s top public health official, his schedules show.
In that time, he has also granted interviews to Fox’s growing competitors, Newsmax and One America News Network, and, during hurricane season, the Weather Channel. While some Republicans venture onto CNN and MSNBC, DeSantis has not.
Even so, DeSantis avoids Fox shows where he might get asked a tough question. And just as if they are dealing with Donald Trump, “[E]mails sent from Fox to DeSantis are peppered with suggestions that Florida was a success that needed to be shared,” the Times noted.
Remember when DeSantis only allowed Fox to cover a fake bill signing of voter suppression laws? Fox claimed a Fox & Friends interview was planned and had no idea there would be a bill signing – despite on-air evidence to the contrary. The emails also show that “Fox & Friends producers were eager to play ball when DeSantis’ team pitched similar ‘exclusives,’” the Times reports.
But not even Fox News can propagandize away the rising tide of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths Floridians are experiencing, even as DeSantis wages war on face masks.
In late June, DeSantis and Fox host Laura Ingraham sneered at Dr. Peter Hotez for predicting another COVID surge. Ingraham called him “one of the most notorious COVID doomers” who “just can’t let the pandemic go.” DeSantis crowed that Florida schools have had “the fewest amount of infection of anywhere else in our society” and accused Hotez and others of “being wrong on these really, really big issues that impacted millions of people and yet you’re still out there parroting stuff.”
That hasn't aged well. Today, we learned that two Broward County teachers and a teachers assistant died from COVID, within 24 hours. Yesterday, NPR reported that 440 students in the Palm Beach County school district were asked to quarantine, just two days into the school year, after 51 students and faculty had confirmed cases on COVID-19.