weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

VICTOR JOECKS: The national media is out to destroy Ron DeSantis. So far, he’s winning.

Ready or not, the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination has already unofficially begun. Given our status as an early voting state, Nevadans are likely to have a significant role in the process.

Granted, the 2024 election is three years away. That’s several lifetimes in politics — precisely what makes speculation so fun. But as it stands now, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is in the pole position, thanks in large part to his ability to respond to the national mainstream media’s brazen attempts to destroy him.

DeSantis, a first-term governor, rose to national prominence during the coronavirus pandemic. Like governors in most states, DeSantis closed Florida early in the pandemic, although he allowed people to attend religious services and exercise outside.

Unlike most Democrat-run states, though, he started lifting restrictions in May. By June, gyms, amusement parks and youth sports were up and running. He allowed kids to go back to school in the fall. In September, DeSantis removed all state-level restrictions on businesses. Some counties did reopen more slowly.

Because his policies mirrored Donald Trump’s push to reopen, the national mainstream media spent months attacking DeSantis. A CNN headline from December highlighted criticism that he put “politics in front of lives.” This is the same national media that spent months lavishing praise on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his coronavirus briefings and leadership.

But Florida’s predicted doomsday never came. As of this writing, its per-capita death rate is 28th in the country, according to Worldometers. That’s below the U.S. average despite having one of the oldest populations of any state. New York ranks second in the country. Nevada is 22nd highest despite a year of restrictions imposed by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Florida’s success didn’t happen by accident. DeSantis followed the science. He moved quickly to protect the most vulnerable, including those in nursing homes. But he also recognized that there are costs to lockdowns. He trusted Floridians to use their judgment and act responsibly.

It worked. His leadership and viral moments of him pushing back against the press turned him into a top-tier presidential candidate.

That leads to “60 Minutes.” Last Sunday, it ran what it thought was a bombshell on DeSantis. The show asked why Florida partnered with Publix, a grocery store chain, to help with vaccine distribution. Its answer: “Weeks before the governor’s announcement, Publix donated $100,000 to his political action committee.”

That’s an accusation of pay-to-play. Don’t miss what’s at stake here. One of the biggest news shows in the country implied DeSantis did something that could not only end his political career but land him in legal trouble.

The accusation though is garbage. Walgreens and CVS were the first private pharmacies to receive vaccines, but they were focused on long-term care facilities. The State Emergency Response Team and the Florida Health Department selected Publix. They choose it because it was ready to start sooner than other companies. Even some Florida Democrats have publicly said the report is rubbish. The Democratic mayor of Palm Beach County said he asked DeSantis to expand the state’s work with Publix.

What’s especially amazing is that “60 Minutes” asked DeSantis about this in a news conference. He spelled these facts out for the reporter. The show played parts of the exchange but cut out his explanation.

Fortunately, DeSantis is no Mitt Romney. He fought back aggressively, explaining the facts and bashing “60 Minutes” for its bias.

“These are smear merchants,” DeSantis said. “That’s why nobody trusts corporate media.”

Unfair attacks from the national mainstream media are an unfortunate part of being a high-profile conservative. Today’s Republican voters want a presidential candidate who’s able to fight back successfully. DeSantis keeps showing that he’s more than capable.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.