When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law on Thursday that places new restrictions on voting by mail and on the use of drop boxes, he was interviewed live on air by the hosts of Fox & Friends.
As it turned out, though, no other media outlet was allowed in the official government event.
In the segment, host Brian Kilmeade asked DeSantis, “What is going to be different about Florida’s election in 2022. What are you about to sign?”
“So right now I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country. I actually am going to sign it right here, it is going to take effect,” DeSantis said, as he signed the bill to a cheering crowd behind him.
Not present were other journalists at the West Palm Beach, FL event, as a number of local outlets complained that they were informed that they would not be allowed into the event.
“We’ve been at the Hilton since 4 this morning, only to be told we can’t go in to hear the governor speak or sign the elections bill,” Madeline Montgomery, a reporter for WPEC-TV, a CBS affiliate in Palm Beach, wrote on Twitter. Another reporter for the station, Jay O’Brien, said that they were to be the pool camera assigned to feed the event to affiliates across the country, but the only camera was Fox News.
Steve Bousquet, columnist and editorial writer for the Sun Sentinel, wrote that he was told by a spokeswoman for the governor that it was a “Fox exclusive.”
Not all bill signings are done in public, but when they are, there is some expectation that elected officials will not grant one media entity the exclusive for an event that involves carrying out an official duty.
But DeSantis, seen as a rising star in the Republican party and potential 2024 presidential candidate, told reporters later on Thursday that “we were happy to give them the exclusive on that, and I think it went really, really well. But that’s broadcast to millions of people…A huge number of people in Florida are watching that.” He added that it was the “first bill signing I have done live on a national broadcast.”
A Fox News spokesperson said that “Fox & Friends did not request or mandate that the May 6th event and interview with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) be exclusive to Fox News Media entities.”
The election legislation limits the use of election drop boxes, establishes new voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots and for registrations, among other things. Florida is the latest state to adopt such restrictions in the aftermath of the 2020 election, with former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the election was fraudulent giving fuel to the idea that new security measures were necessary. A Georgia law has led to calls to boycott the state, and Major League Baseball moved their All Star Game from Atlanta to Denver.
A coalition of public interest and civil rights groups, which contend that the legislation will hinder access to voting, are challenging the new Florida law in court, while DeSantis’ critics pounced on his decision to restrict press access.
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who plans to run against him in the state’s gubernatorial election next year, wrote on Twitter, “This is the difference between @GovRonDeSantis and me. He locks out the public and caters to Fox News. When I was Governor, everyone was invited in — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. And when I’m Governor again, this will be a Florida for all.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) just signed the state's new restrictive voting bill live on Fox News (after barring local press from the bill's signing). pic.twitter.com/hR2ZXooABy
— The Recount (@therecount) May 6, 2021