The Phoenix Flyer

DeSantis: ‘They come after me and they do a lot of slander, but I fight back’

By: - February 7, 2023 2:24 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis hosted a roundtable discussion about media defamation on Feb. 7. 2023. Credit: DeSantis’ Facebook page

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday hosted another roundtable discussion that resembled a television show, lamenting over people who were allegedly victims of defamation by major media platforms.

DeSantis, who is a lawyer, welcomed several guests including Nicholas Sandmann, a former high school student from Kentucky who went viral years ago after a confrontation with a Native American elderly man.

Others participating in the more than hour-long roundtable discussion on media defamation included attorneys representing clients involved in defamation lawsuits, legal experts and a former member of the media.

DeSantis stressed the importance accountability by bringing lawsuits against media outlets that have presented false statements about people.

“We are only talking about false statements of fact that defame people,” he said. “People can always speak the truth.”

“So these are clearly statements that are erroneous and that are damaging and that’s really kind of what we’re talking about,” he said. “They come after me and they do a lot of slander, but I fight back. I have a platform to fight back, so it’s a lot easier for me.”

DeSantis continued: “And, you know, people here, trust me a hell of a lot more than they trust the media. So it ends up being fine. We work it out. You know, it’s not a big deal. I got thick skin but you have some of these other folks who are just run-of-the-mill citizens, their only possible way of recourse would be to be able to bring an action because they don’t have the platform you know that I have.”

During the event, Sandmann said he’s now in college and blamed the media for its past coverage of the confrontation during a march in Washington D.C. in January of 2019. DeSantis played a news clip from Fox News entitled “Covington Students Smeared By Media.”

“My name is Nicholas Sandman, what we saw there happened four years ago, I was 16 years old, when I was the in the middle of a national controversy that I completely did not invite on myself,” Sandmann said.

“I’m 20 years old now. I was a junior in high school when all of that happened. I’m a junior in college now. For me, the biggest problem with what the media did to me was when we talk about defamation, we talk about ruining your reputation. In my case, I didn’t have a reputation to ruin. I hadn’t started any kind of professional career. I didn’t have a job yet; I hadn’t begun my life and already they had predetermined what I was supposed to be.”

In the video, Sandmann was seen with a smirk on his face in a very close encounter with the elderly man.

Sandmann had lost several defamation lawsuits he filed against several media outlets including, The New York Times, CBS News, ABC News and others, according to a (Business) Insider report.

 “They’re going to try to smear you out. Like that’s just what they do. And most people, most voters, they just chalk it up to the bias and to the agenda,” DeSantis said. “So I don’t think in the long run, it’s worked out for them and I think it’s going to continue to be very poor for them just with the decline of standards in the elevation of narrative, above all else.”

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.