DeSantis press secretary fires back after Associated Press accuses her of 'harassing' reporter

Media top headlines August 20

In media news today, the Los Angeles Times says Kamala Harris now ‘owns’ Afghanistan policy after touting her role in withdrawal decision, Columbia Journal Review torches NYT, CNN for their roles in the ‘Cuomo myth,’ and media outlets repeat Biden remark that GOP governors are ‘banning masks in schools’

The war between Associated Press and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R., stepped up Friday as the news agency accused his spokeswoman of “harassing behavior” and activating an “online mob” against a reporter for his story about the governor’s promotion of a COVID antibody drug.

The extraordinary letter from incoming AP CEO Daisy Veerasingham accused DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw of inciting an online mob against AP reporter Brendan Farrington, over his story headlined, “DeSantis top donor invests in COVID drug governor promotes.” It recapped her tweets ripping the story that used terms like “Drag Them” and “put you on blast,” with the AP characterizing them as a direct threat to Farrington.

“While we can disagree about stories, it is unacceptable and dangerous for a public official to encourage the systemic bullying of journalists,” Veerasingham wrote.

Pushaw said the AP was trying to distract from its “hit piece,” which was widely criticized.

“No one from our office ever threatened him,” Pushaw told Fox News. “His story drew harsh criticism because it was false – and discouraged people from seeking life-saving treatment. Instead of owning up to that and retracting their hit piece, AP doubled down and tried to make the story about the backlash the reporter received.”

When Farrington, who has now protected his Twitter account, first said Wednesday he was facing threats over the story, Pushaw said DeSantis’ office didn’t condone them.

The AP piece reported on DeSantis’ push for Floridians with coronavirus to take a monoclonal antibody treatment developed by Regeneron, in which a major DeSantis donor’s company has invested millions.

However, the AP also acknowledged the drug is highly effective and has been touted by the Biden administration as well. The story also noted the DeSantis donor’s hedge fund, Citadel, had a smaller share in Regeneron than BlackRock, which has donated more to Democrats, and that Citadel’s investment in Regeneron “is a tiny fraction of its overall $39 billion in investments.”

The story was panned by Pushaw, conservatives, and even some liberals who disagreed with its framing. One Florida newspaper editor even tweeted that he was a strong critic of DeSantis – a possible 2024 GOP White House contender – but called the story weak.

“Yeah, we’ve been pretty big critics of DeSantis on the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, but this ‘DeSantis is hawking monoclonal antibodies to make a buck for a donor’ story doesn’t really add up,” tweeted the Sun Sentinel’s Dan Sweeney. 

Pushaw said Friday she was particularly upset over the story because she felt the AP had politicized a public health issue and called the letter a deflection from criticism it’s gotten over the story.

“They got caught publishing misinformation that could endanger the lives of Floridians by making them unduly trust a life-saving treatment … over a governor they’ve decided they don’t like,” she said. “They got called out for it in part because of me, in part because the story was so obviously wrong … They brought this on themselves by publishing this kind of dangerous misinformation.”

She added she deleted the tweet that said “Drag Them” over the AP’s tweet of its original story after Farrington told her he had begun receiving threats. She added she wasn’t trying to cover her tracks by deleting her old tweets, and she didn’t condone any threats against the reporter and urged him to alert the police.

In response to Fox News, a spokesperson for the AP said “the letter speaks for itself” and reiterated that the news agency “stands by the story.”

On Friday evening, Pushaw’s Twitter account was hit with a 12-hour suspension for allegedly violating its policies. Pushaw told Fox News Twitter never pointed out the specific tweets that got her in trouble.  

“You will ban the press secretary of a democratically elected official while allowing the Taliban to live-tweet their conquest of Afghanistan?” Pushaw reacted in a statement to Fox News. “This proves Governor DeSantis right – again. Those who challenge false narratives are often too silenced by corporate media and Big Tech collusion.”

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed Pushaw’s suspension. When asked by Fox News which tweets violated Twitter policy, the spokesperson replied, “We’ve nothing to share beyond the statement, thank you.”

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