Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers infrastructure grant money to local officials during a Sept. 9, 2021, appearance in DeFuniak Springs. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel
If the governor holds a news conference and doesn’t take questions from the press, is it really a news conference?
Not particularly, judging by an appearance Gov. Ron DeSantis staged Thursday in DeFuniak Springs.
The governor’s office definitely invited reporters, having issued a press release announcing the event and specifying when they should arrive to set up.
But after the governor concluded his remarks and asked for questions, the ensuing back-and-forth seemed to involve local officials who heaped praise on DeSantis — not news gatherers seeking policy details.
“You’ve done something that I’ve tried for 41 years to do, and that’s to turn my daughter from a liberal Democrat to a Republican,” one man told the governor. Others praised his law enforcement policies and attention to local governments in the area.
Members of the Fourth Estate were there — Tom Lewis, news director for WMBB-TV in Panama City, confirmed that his team was on hand and provided a live video feed for internet viewers, although he wouldn’t get into the details of their editorial process.
However, Kevin Robinson, content coach for the Northwest Florida Daily News, said the governor opened questioning to the local officials only and that his reporter hoped to ask about mask mandates and other matters following the ceremonial check hand-off, only to watch DeSantis leave without taking press questions.
DeSantis was in DeFuniak to deliver $500,000 from the state’s Job Growth grant fund for infrastructure improvements and $625,000 from the Rural Infrastructure Fund to boost broadband internet access.
Press Secretary Christina Pushaw played down the episode.
“As you know, Gov. DeSantis has press conferences almost every day in different parts of Florida and almost always takes multiple questions from all credentialed media outlets in attendance,” she said via email.
“Two local TV stations and one local newspaper had reporters at the DeFuniak Springs presser this morning. They didn’t ask any questions. In bigger cities, more members of the press always attend, but DeFuniak Springs is a very small town in a rural area,” she said.
In fact, throughout his term the governor has traveled extensively to meet with the public and take press questions — recently, his focus has been on opening clinics to administer monoclonal antibodies as a COVID-19 treatment. He’s been known to skip out without taking questions, whether because he doesn’t want to or to catch a flight.
DeSantis was due at another news conference Thursday in New Port Richey at 3 p.m., accompanied by Dr. Kenneth Scheppke, chief medical officer for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. That news conference was about an hour late and focused on monoclonal antibodies treatment. DeSantis did answers questions from reporters at that news conference.
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