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Elections

The Press Disgraces Itself in Pursuit of Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis at CPAC 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

I second Rich’s defense of Ron DeSantis, and want to add my own exasperation at the rank dishonesty and profound irresponsibility on display from the media outlets that have run with the attack. This was not an honest mistake. On the contrary: Those who sold this lie knew exactly what they were doing, and they knew exactly why they were doing it. They did it to mislead, willfully, for clicks and for political advantage.

In pursuit of both, an enormous number of self-described “journalists” deliberately tied DeSantis’s use of “monkey this up”—which came attached to some praise for Gillum coupled with a warning that Gillum’s socialism would muck up Florida’s excellent economy—to the fact that Gillum is black, the obvious implication being that DeSantis believes that electing a black man as governor of Florida would “monkey this up” (whatever that means). But that is not what DeSantis said. It is not what DeSantis meant. And it is not what anyone really thinks he meant, either. It is a lie of the sort that is to be expected from explicitly political players, but not from those who believe they are Woodward and Bernstein in a firefighter’s hat. (Given his interest in “context collapse,” I’m sure that Ezra Klein is penning a defense of DeSantis for Vox as I type.)

We hear a lot about the “politics of division” these days. Indeed, that phrase was used in a few quarters as a criticism of DeSantis’s words. But I can think of fewer more “divisive” actions than falsely telling millions of people that the man who may well be their next governor believes that African Americans are monkeys. Those who did so should be ashamed.

Perhaps the best argument against DeSantis is that, as a professional, he should have known better than to have used the word “monkey”—even innocently. But one cannot advance that charge without adding the necessary next clause, which is “. . . given that the press is so wildly irresponsible and will take words out of context in order to gin up outrage.” If politicians ought to be careful because otherwise the press will lie, then the press is rotten to the core. It should not remain a mystery why so many so openly detest it.

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