Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday went after The Associated Press for its story about his touting of a COVID-19 treatment that is linked to a major campaign donor.
DeSantis ripped the article in a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity as “clearly a partisan hit piece,” and an example of AP “trying to create a false narrative.”
Rather than pushing for preventive vaccines and masks as cases of COVID-19 skyrocket in his state, DeSantis has been heavily promoting the use of the pharmaceutical Regeneron to treat COVID-19, which was used by Donald Trump when he contracted the illness. The governor has set up Regeneron treatment sites for Floridians.
Hannity referred to Regeneron at least twice as a “moncolonial” antibody treatment. It’s actually a monoclonal antibody treatment, and has generally proved to be an effective treatment — after someone gets COVID-19.
But AP reported last week that Ken Griffin, who has donated $10.75 million to a political committee that supports DeSantis, is CEO of Citadel, a Chicago-based hedge fund that has $15.9 million in shares of Regeneron Pharmaceutical Inc.
DeSantis released a letter responding Monday to AP, calling the article a “smear” and a “conspiracy theory.” He also said he had thought the AP sent him a message notifying him of a retraction, but instead the message complained that his office was “bullying” the reporter who wrote the story.
AP also complained last Friday to Twitter, condemning what it called “abusive behavior” by DeSantis’ Press Secretary Christina Pushaw against its reporter Brendan Farrington.
Pushaw appeared to sic her 22,000 followers on AP and Farrington with a tweet directing them to “drag them” over a link to the Regeneron story. The message resulted in threats and other online abuse, AP notified Twitter, which subsequently suspended Pushaw from her account for 12 hours.
Pushaw also threatened to put Farrington “on blast” if he didn’t modify his story.
On Aug. 20, incoming AP CEO Daisy Veerasingham called on DeSantis in a letter to stop Pushaw’s “harassing behavior.”
Journalists are regular targets of “abuse, rape threats, people stalking their family members and hacking their online personas,” Veerasingham wrote. “While we can disagree about stories, it is unacceptable and dangerous for a public official to encourage the systemic bullying of journalists.”
In his letter responding to Veerasingham on Monday, DeSantis defended Pushaw, saying AP “deserved blowback.”
DeSantis told Hannity: “The AP knew what they were doing. They wanted to do a political hit on me … And then they had the temerity to act like they were the victim when they got called out on their hit piece.”
He didn’t mention Ken Griffin, nor did he discuss any potential conflict of interest in constantly touting Regeneron.
The AP is standing by its story.
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