Desantis’s staff blast AOC over Miami vacation to shift focus from questions about governor’s absence

Governor has not made a public appearance in weeks despite dramatic surge in state’s Covid infection rate

Andrew Naughtie
Friday 31 December 2021 12:54
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Florida governor has previously taken action against vaccine and mask mandates

As Florida Governor Ron DeSantis faces growing questions over his near-absence from public life as the Omicron surge hits his state, his staff are attacking a Democratic enemy.

The target is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was yesterday pictured in Miami Beach eating in a restaurant – without wearing a mask.

It is not clear how Ms Ocasio-Cortez could have worn a mask while eating and drinking. But more to the point, she was also seated outside; even under her own city’s relatively strict rules, New York restaurants with outdoor dining areas have freedom to seat unmasked diners.

“Outdoor dining spaces that have a temporary or fixed cover (e.g., awning or roof) and at least two open sides for airflow do not need to follow the same requirements as the indoor space of the restaurant,” according to the rules on the New York Department of Health website. “Mask wearing for patrons, except while patrons are actively eating or drinking, is strongly recommended, but not required. The appropriate social distancing measures are also highly recommended.”

Nonetheless, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw – whose Twitter profile describes her as an “anti-communist” who is “here to debunk false Narratives about Florida & @GovRonDeSantis” – shared a torrent of right-wing tweets attacking the progressive representative and added her own perspective as well.

“AHAHAHA,” she wrote, with a laughing-and-crying emoji. “No wonder Blue Anon has been in total meltdown mode today…”

Ms Pushaw has been pushing back hard against accusations that her boss has been on holiday in the last two weeks, which have seen Covid-19 cases in Florida rise to staggering levels – much as is happening in states like New York.

After tweeting on Thursday that the governor wanted to “take a few days off” around Christmas with his family – and that “I don’t criticize Biden for going to Rehoboth Beach all week, right?” – Ms Pushaw claimed that her words had been deliberately misrepresented.

The questions over Mr DeSantis’s whereabouts grew louder after his official Twitter account shared a picture of him at a bagel shop that was in fact taken two weeks previously.

Meanwhile, Democratic officials in Florida are increasingly putting pressure on the governor’s office to explain his whereabouts. He has not given a press conference since 17 December.

Mr DeSantis’s office did not reply to The Independent’s request for comment on his whereabouts.

His team’s response to the hail of criticism has been parodied by comedian and writer Blair Erskine, whose video featuring an imaginary DeSantis spokesperson has received thousands of likes.

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