Friday, March 03, 2023


In case you're wondering, Ron DeSantis has been at war with (most of) the media since before he was governor. Here's a Tampa Bay Times report from the summer of 2018, during DeSantis's first gubernatorial run:
Republican gubernatorial [candidate] Ron DeSantis does not disagree with President Donald Trump's description of the media as "enemy of the people."

"When you're doing things that are deliberately misleading, when you're using hit pieces that are totally unfounded, I mean that's a problem," DeSantis said Tuesday when asked several times about Trump's characterization of the media. "I think it's wrong."

... [At] a Tampa campaign event ... Florida reporters were barred from hearing the gubernatorial nominee speak with voters....

... he doesn't make it easy for journalists to report about where he stands on issues he would deal with as Florida's governor.

During the Republican primary, he appeared multiple times a week on Fox News, but almost always talked about national issues, such as the special counsel Russia probe. He rarely made himself available for one-on-one interviews or invited journalists to hear him talk with voters.

... Since the primary, DeSantis has appeared on Fox News at least five times, on a New York-based national radio show, and given an interview to the Spanish language Telemundo 51 in Miami and to a network that owns stations in Gainesville, Panama City and Tallahassee.
And now The New York Times reports that DeSantis "has all but shunned one-on-one interviews with mainstream political reporters," while giving an interview to the Murdoch-owned Times of London and providing access to many other Murdoch media figures.
As he kicks off a promotional tour for his new memoir (published by Mr. Murdoch’s HarperCollins), Mr. DeSantis took Salena Zito, a conservative columnist at The New York Post (owned by Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp), on a tour of his hometown in Florida, and he appeared on Fox News (owned by Mr. Murdoch’s Fox Corp) for interviews with Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Jesse Watters and the co-hosts of “Fox & Friends.” Excerpts from his memoir appeared in The Post and on
At the same time, one of DeSantis's minions in the Florida state legislature has just introduced a bill that would invalidate the First Amendment for Florida political bloggers:
Florida Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Lake Mary) wants bloggers who write about Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and other members of the Florida executive cabinet or legislature to register with the state or face fines.

Brodeur’s proposal, Senate Bill 1316: Information Dissemination, would require any blogger writing about government officials to register with the Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.

In the bill, Brodeur wrote that those who write “an article, a story, or a series of stories,” about “the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature,” and receives or will receive payment for doing so, must register with state offices within five days after the publication of an article that mentions an elected state official.

If another blog post is added to a blog, the blogger would then be required to submit monthly reports on the 10th of each month with the appropriate state office.
And, of course, another legislative minion recently introduced a bill that would allow public officials and others to use the libel law in order to shut down investigative journalism.

So what do you think would happen to the press corps in a DeSantis White House?

Donald Trump's White House banned CNN's Kaitlan Collins from one Rose Garden event, claiming that Collins had been rude at an earlier event. A few months later, the Trump team took away the press pass of CNN's Jim Acosta, again because Trump didn't like Acosta's questioning. After CNN sued, Acosta's press pass was restored.

At the time, we were told that a president couldn't really ban reporters for critical questions or stories, but the reasons given weren't particularly reassuring:
Does CNN’s White House correspondent, or any journalist, have a First Amendment “right” to a press pass or a spot at a news conference?

Since the Supreme Court said in its 1972 Branzburg ruling that journalists have no right to insist on greater access than the general public, probably not.

That being said, journalists do have a right not to be retaliated against, regardless of what form the retaliation takes.

... The government cannot take away even a purely discretionary privilege if the motive is to penalize speech.

Even though there is no entitlement to hold a government job, the Supreme Court decided in 1966 that public employment cannot be denied on the basis of viewpoint.

And even though there is no entitlement to receive a discretionary government grant, the justices ruled in 2013 that a grant cannot be denied because the applicant expresses a view different from the government’s.

In other words, any action by a government agency intended to punish or deter a speaker for unwanted speech can violate the Constitution.
Trump, who clearly likes many of the reports he claims to despise, didn't try to eliminate the established White House press. In 2019, his White House did reduce the number of "hard passes" granted to journalists, but rejected any suggestions that this was done based on viewpoint discrimination:
The White House has implemented new rules that it says will cut down on the number of journalists who hold “hard” passes, the credentials that allow reporters and technicians to enter the grounds without seeking daily permission....

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders [said] the changes were prompted by security concerns, not to punish journalists. “No one’s access is being limited,” she said Wednesday night.

Under procedures announced in March and implemented over the past few weeks, journalists will qualify to renew their hard passes only if they have entered the White House grounds at least 50 percent of the time in the 180 days before renewal, effectively once every other day. If they fall short of this, their hard passes will not be renewed.

A nonrenewal doesn’t preclude journalists from entering the White House entirely, but it does subject them to a more cumbersome process. Without a hard pass, they must apply each time they want access on a daily, weekly or six-month basis. Hard passes are valid for two years.
I could easily imagine DeSantis eliminating hard passes altogether and requiring every journalist to apply for access daily or weekly -- and then auto-renewing favored reporters' access every day, while creating impossible bureaucratic burdens for reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, the three broadcast networks, and other hated "legacy" outlets. Maybe he'd just say there's no such thing as a White House press corps anymore, and then provide access to every media event by invitation only, at his discretion. I could imagine him declaring that the White House Correspondents' Association no longer has any status in the White House.

If even the pre-Trump federal judiciary said that "journalists have no right to insist on greater access than the general public," then of course DeSantis would test the limits of what he can get away with in his dealings with the media. As far as I can tell, he could get away with a lot.

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