Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a letter sent Monday to incoming Associated Press CEO Daisy Veerasingham said the news organization deserved blowback for publishing a controversial story suggesting a connection between a top donor to his campaign to his recent promotion of an antibody drug used in some cases to treat the novel coronavirus.
"You cannot recklessly smear your political opponents and then expect to be immune from criticism," DeSantis wrote. "The corporate media's ‘clicks-first, facts-later’ approach to journalism is harming our country. You succeeded in publishing a misleading, clickbait headline about one of your political opponents, but at the expense of deterring individuals infected with COVID from seeking life-saving treatment, which will cost lives. Was it worth it?"
The governor's remarks came in response to a letter Veerasingham sent his office last week accusing press secretary Christina Pushaw of "harassing behavior" toward the AP reporter who wrote the story.
"I assumed your letter was to notify me that you were issuing a retraction of the partisan smear piece you published last week," the Florida governor wrote. "Instead, you had the temerity to complain about the deserved blowback that your botched and discredited attempt to concoct a political narrative has received. The ploy will not work to divert attention from the fact that the Associated Press published a false narrative that will lead some to decline effective treatment for COVID infections."
The AP article, titled, "DeSantis top donor invests in COVID drug governor promotes," said Citadel Investment Group, a Chicago-based hedge fund, has $15.9 million in shares of Regeneron Pharmaceutical Inc., according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Its CEO, Ken Griffin, has donated $10.75 million to a political committee that supports DeSantis — $5.75 million in 2018 and $5 million last April.
Griffin is a major campaign donor to DeSantis, but his firm is only a small investor in Regeneron, according to the Austin American Statesman.
DeSantis lambasted the AP for hindering public knowledge of a potentially life-saving treatment.
"While the public's trust in corporate outlets like the AP is at historic lows," DeSantis writes, "there is no doubt that some will decline to seek life-saving treatment as a result of the AP's inflammatory headline."
Veerasingham, in response to DeSantis, wrote, "while we can disagree about stories, it is unacceptable and dangerous for a public official to encourage the systemic bullying of journalists."
The AP later released an additional response to DeSantis from one of their spokespersons.
"The Associated Press does not have political opponents. We do accountability reporting about those in power, regardless of political affiliation." the spokesperson said.
"The issue here is not pushback. It's harassment. A public servant whose job it is to work with the press encouraged a harassment campaign against our journalist, and that is unacceptable."
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