Much of the early minutes of Ron DeSantis‘s Twitter Spaces presidential announcement was spent bashing mainstream media alongside Elon Musk and venture capitalist David Sacks. “Legacy media” and “the corporate journalists” live “in their little bubble,” DeSantis derided. But little from Wednesday’s campaign rollout showed that DeSantis is willing to stray from his own.
The Florida governor, who has largely ignored traditional media outlets in favor of conservative ones, opted for softball questions from friendly moderators as he announced his run for the presidency, first in a glitch-plagued Twitter live stream—where he took questions from a selection of conservative voices, including culture warrior Christopher Rufo and former NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch—and later on Fox News. Even the Trump team took a shot at DeSantis’ campaign launch, with an adviser telling Politico, “Announcing on Twitter is perfect for Ron DeSantis. This way he doesn’t have to interact with people and the media can’t ask him any questions.”
“I would just say as an American citizen, if you are uncritically accepting narratives spun by legacy media and left wing groups, you’re failing at your job of being a conscientious citizen,” DeSantis said during the Twitter conversation, per The Independent, as he accused the media of “colluding” with civil rights groups like the NAACP—which recently issued a travel advisory warning Florida is “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals”—to “manufacture a narrative.” He made a similar claim when asked about the banning of books in Florida schools, claiming, falsely, “there has not been a single book banned in the state of Florida,” and that he believed the “left and the media” were “colluding” to “create these hoaxes.”
This strategy—staying in friendly territory—continued Thursday, with DeSantis scheduled to speak with conservative radio hosts Erick Erickson, and then Loesch, per Axios. Earlier in the week, the “safe-spaces game plan,” as Axios called it, included a 40-minute interview with the libertarian John Stossel and a New York Post puff piece on the governor’s wife, Casey DeSantis. “I’m not going to sit there and humor them and treat them as some neutral arbiter,” DeSantis told Stossel of mainstream media outlets. “What bugs me, and I think a lot of Republicans,” DeSantis said, “is they pretend that somehow they are objective,” noting that “for most of American history….You had a Hamilton paper and a Jefferson paper, and they were very stridently partisan.”
Nearly a year ago, as DeSantis was barring journalists from events and isolating himself within conservative-media circles, it remained an open question whether Republicans would shut out the press in 2024. In recent weeks, Donald Trump has returned to CNN for the first time in years for a town hall, and the network has since announced two upcoming town halls with Republicans: former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who announced her 2024 bid in February, and former Vice President Mike Pence, who has yet to officially enter the race. Whether DeSantis will agree to such a forum remains to be seen. He found success with his conservative media strategy in the midterms, but it’s unclear whether it can work on a national level. Wednesday’s launch suggested, if nothing else, that DeSantis and his team are willing to find out.
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