Showtime pulls Vice episode probing Ron Desantis’s Guantanamo record despite campaign trail questions

Florida governor disputes claims made by ex-detainee to The Independent

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 05 June 2023 16:22 BST
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The premium cable network Showtime halted the planned airing of a Vice investigation into Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his service as an attorney for the US military, just as the Republican candidate faces questions about the issue on the campaign trail.

The move was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, explaining that the episode had originally been set to air on 28 May. The reason for the episode’s change was not given, and a rerun was played in place of a new episode during Vice’s 28 May timeslot on Showtime.

Mr DeSantis, 44, is considered to be the second-place contender for the Republican nomination as the GOP primary heats up. He announced his candidacy four days before the Vice investigation was supposed to drop, in an awkward Twitter Spaces event with CEO Elon Musk delayed by significant technical issues.

His military service record is considered a key part of the political pedigree that vaulted him to office, first in Congress and later to the governor’s mansion. But a dispute has arisen over whether Mr DeSantis was physically present for the forced feedings of inmates at the infamous military prison — what has been called torture by some international rights groups and experts — in response to a hunger strike at the facility.

Two former Guantanamo detainees dispute Mr DeSantis’ claim that he was not present for those sessions. One told The Independent that the governor spoke to him personally.

A spokesperson for Vice told The Independent on Monday that the investigation itself may still make it to air.

“As with all current affairs programming there can be scheduling changes, and we are very much still in discussion about the scheduling of this episode. We are proud of our reporting and of our continuing partnership with Showtime,” said the network’s representative.

Showtime, meanwhile, said only that it would not “comment on scheduling decisions”.

Mr DeSantis addressed the question about his service at Guantanamo in the days leading up to his official 2024 campaign announcement; in comments to reporters, he ridiculed the idea that any individual detainee at the prison would have remembered him. He has also rejected the idea that he would have had the authority to order such force-feedings, though he does not appear to have been accused of doing so.

“Do you honestly believe that’s credible? It’s ... 2006, I’m a junior officer, do you honestly think that they would’ve remembered me?” he asked a reporter in a flash of anger on 27 April.

Polling shows the Florida governor firmly behind former President Donald Trump in the contest for the GOP 2024 nomination, while he remains the only other Republican registering competitive levels of support at this time.

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