Despite a worsening Covid-19 outbreak in his state, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis remains one of the brightest stars in the Republican firmament – and details have emerged as to how he got there in the first place.
According to emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, Fox News producers worked closely with Mr DeSantis’ office in January to craft an item for flagship morning show Fox & Friends in which a 100-year-old veteran would be given a first shot of coronavirus vaccine – this at a time when the state was struggling with its rollout.
The network’s enthusiasm to work with the governor, the newspaper reported, only increased after the item was aired, with one producer writing that “I honestly think he could host the show with the chops we saw from him at the vaccine site”.
According to the emails the Times obtained, the network asked Mr DeSantis to appear a full 113 times between the 2020 election and the end of February, sometimes sending several requests in the space of a few hours – and at least once offering the governor his choice of subject matter if he agreed to come on air.
One producer even told Mr DeSantis’ team that “we see him as the future of the Republican Party” and another explaining that their job was to “look forward and really spotlight the STARS (sic) of the GOP”. It’s unclear whether those were statements meant to ingratiate the network with the governor, or a distinct editorial point of view of the producers.
Mr DeSantis’ rise to national prominence has certainly been aided by his appearances in conservative media, and on Fox News in particular, as well as his star turns at Republican gatherings like CPAC. The governor has turned his state’s performance against Covid-19 into a national wedge issue, and has been selling T-shirts and koozies reading “Don’t Fauci My Florida” and “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”
However, those items have started to lose their luster in recent weeks, with the state breaking its own positive test and hospitalisation records many times over. At a time where under-vaccination has allowed the Delta variant to run wild in certain regions, the surge is one of the US’ worst.
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