On May 20, Rich Lowry published an article entitled “Where Does Ron DeSantis Go to Get His Apology?” The piece appropriately took shots at the many media outlets and figures that inexplicably but relentlessly trained their fire on the Florida governor in the early days of the coronavirus crisis. Lowry observed that Andrew Cuomo — who presided over a disaster in New York — had received fawning coverage while DeSantis’s Florida was maintaining a remarkably low caseload for a state of its size.
Mostly, though, the piece was focused on letting DeSantis explain his strategy: protecting at-risk groups — especially in nursing homes, noting when rising caseloads in counties were due to micro-outbreaks in contained areas, and taking a county-by-county approach rather than relying on statewide edicts.
As the summer got underway, Florida got hit by a second wave of cases that was undoubtedly more significant than the first. At the peak of the Florida spike on July 17, the state led the nation with a seven-day new case average of 11,756, though it should be considered that many states were experiencing similar case spikes around this time. Nevertheless, the same cabal that had decried DeSantis’s performance months earlier once again singled him out, this time sneering at Lowry as well. Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times wrote that Lowry had “managed simultaneously to display his own cluelessness about the emerging catastrophe and set up DeSantis for a major reckoning” and expressed his disgust with the response of Republican governors writ large. CNN’s Chris Cillizza chided Lowry for his premature assertions and DeSantis for his “hands-off approach.” Vox’s Matthew Yglesias retweeted a tally of the death toll in Florida as of July 26 and mockingly repeated Lowry’s titular query. Steve Benen at MSNBC called the piece “unfortunate chest-thumping at the time” that had aged poorly.
A month and a half later, it appears that it was this merry band of tut-tutters who were premature in their victory laps. The New York Times categorizes Florida as a state “where new cases are lower and staying low.” Moreover, despite the summer surge experienced in Florida, it has only the 18th highest count of deaths per 100,000 residents if you deem New York City and the rest of New York to be separate jurisdictions, as the Center for Disease Control does. And contra Hiltzick’s broader partisan claim, eleven of the 17 jurisdictions ahead of Florida are run by Democrats.
Ron DeSantis is an imperfect man and leader who has doubtlessly made mistakes in his handling of the pandemic. But the media’s preoccupation with making him the poster-child of incompetence was as deserving of criticism in May as it is now. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that he and Lowry will receive the apologies they are due.