Opinion

DeSantis Claims Media Exaggerates Florida’s Response to COVID-19

The news media is perpetually accused of bias, selective reporting and misinformation. This trend is especially common among certain politicians, to a fault. Many of them refuse to acknowledge their own mistakes and shortcomings, and they find it easier to replace confessions with accusations.

Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, has made a crusade against the media part of his political ideology. He harps on the portrayal of news media as a maleficent force that obscures the truth.

A few days ago on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, DeSantis accused corporate American media (media owned by large companies; essentially all big media outlets in the U.S.) of having a political agenda slant when reporting on Florida’s COVID-19 response. It is worth noting that Fox News is part of the corporate American media that DeSantis denounced.

DeSantis’s targeting of corporate American media is based on the near-total ownership of American media by just six mega-companies, a phenomenon that understandably raises concern.

Here is a staggering figure that explains why apprehension surrounding the corporate media exists: In 1983, 90% of American media was owned by 50 companies. In 2011, just six companies owned 90% of American media.

The chart below depicts ownership of some of the most notorious American media outlets as of September 2020.

Given this data, it is not shocking that media outlets’ structure in the U.S. raises some eyebrows. However, corporate media has no bearing on the spread of COVID-19 in Florida and the real, unbiased numbers in which it is occurring.

Despite complaints about corporate media slants, DeSantis was eager to accept praise regarding his handling of COVID-19 from corporate media outlet Fox News in May when they lauded his apparent success in containing the virus. He raised no questions about their bias or their political agenda.

Now that Florida’s COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed, DeSantis still claims that Florida’s COVID-19 response is exemplary – doctors, nurses, scientists, and the ill may disagree – and chalks up any negative media portrayal of Florida to politically motivated reporting.

It is clear that these accusations reflect a desperate attempt to shift blame for Florida’s COVID-19 cases—which now exceed 1 million—onto some other entity. DeSantis cannot bear to acknowledge that he misread the situation.

Instead, DeSantis will use any means necessary to save face. He says the press is biased yet often avoids it so as to not be met with questions that highlight his shortcomings. If he was concerned with the truth behind what the press says about Florida’s COVID-19 situation, wouldn’t he want to speak to them directly and frequently so they cannot misconstrue the facts?

In reality, DeSantis is not revolted by corporate media—if he were, he would not highlight their prior praise, nor would he do an interview with Fox News. DeSantis is revolted by the media’s ability to shed light on his mistakes.

While DeSantis denounces the media for making him look bad, Floridians continue getting sick, are hospitalized, and are losing their lives. Doctors and nurses continue suffering from mental distress, and scientists continue begging Floridians to respect simple guidelines like wearing a mask and social distancing.

Yet DeSantis continues throwing caution to the wind. He’ll complain about media bias and the inconvenience of lockdowns before complaining about the growing death toll that COVID-19 has had in Florida. At the time this article was written, the number sits at over 20,000 Floridian lives lost due to COVID-19.

If DeSantis has made one thing clear throughout this pandemic, it is that he refuses criticism. As slanted as any news outlet can be, they cannot slant the number of COVID-19 cases or deaths.

Claiming that partisan media outlets are the only reason Florida’s COVID-19 response appears poor is an insult to scientists, doctors, nurses, frontline workers, the 19,000 people who passed away, and their family members. DeSantis is invalidating their suffering.

Featured image: Governor Ron DeSantis. Unmodified photo by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons License. (https://bit.ly/37yQIFd)

Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.      

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