Say what you want about Republican presidential contender and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, but when it comes to keeping people alive through a pandemic that has claimed over 1 million American lives, the man has been nothing but consistent. He's vowed not only to do absolutely nothing that might help, but also to make sure nobody else can do anything about it either.
He's at it again. In a new ABC News interview, DeSantis promises that if he's elected president, he'll end pandemic vaccine funding. That's his promise: poof, no more COVID-19 vaccine funding. Because reasons. Whether that means DeSantis intends to end all federal funding of vaccine research or just target the ones specific to the current pandemic isn't immediately clear. It would be strange for him to single out the vaccines we need most urgently for a new federal funding ban, but given that it's DeSantis we're talking about, maybe that's exactly what he intends?
Before we continue, we need to call out CNN here for some egregiously sloppy reporting. This needs some editing, big time.
As some limited, local mask mandates have returned, DeSantis held a roundtable last week on the new Covid-19 shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, where his surgeon general recommended people under 65 against receiving them.
DeSantis in the ABC interview doubled down on recent guidance from his state discouraging anyone under 65 from getting them, contradicting federal health officials’ recommendations.
The governor said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot be trusted – a response that elicited a prolonged on-air clarification about the scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines from ABC anchor Linsey Davis.
No, no, no. This is exactly what's wrong with allegedly "political" reporting: the flat recitation of what DeSantis claims with no context on whether those claims are accurate, not even when it is of the utmost public interest to know whether he’s being truthful or lying. CNN dodges even the appearance of fact-checking here, opting instead for a weak both-sidesing reference to ABC having to "clarify" DeSantis' claims, even as CNN lets them sail on by.
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, whom DeSantis appointed, is an infamous hoax-promoting anti-vaccine quack, one who engaged in scientific fraud to justify his claims of alleged vaccine dangers. The whole of Florida's vaccine recommendations are scientifically fraudulent, not merely controversial. That’s already been established, and DeSantis and Ladapo are lying.
"I was in the trenches during Covid. [The CDC was] citing flimsy studies saying that masks will stop Covid. They were citing flimsy studies about the mRNA shots," DeSantis grumbled during the interview, but readers also need to know that masks can indeed protect against the virus, and that mRNA vaccines have indeed proven effective.
Neither one is foolproof, but they are both a hell of a lot more effective than the DeSantis-backed plan of doing absolutely jack-all, then lying about the resulting death toll. DeSantis' anti-vaccine fearmongering is estimated to have played a part in at least 16,000 pandemic deaths during the summer of 2021 alone, and Florida has the dubious distinction of having more of its residents die of COVID-19 after the vaccines became widely available than died beforehand.
That's the legacy that DeSantis promises to bring to the Oval Office, and it seems evident that he'd follow through on it. He's decided to go the route of full pandemic denialist, sneering that pro-mask public officials "want to muzzle your children" and promising that masks, vaccines, social-distancing efforts, and, in fact, all pandemic defenses will be eliminated for the sake of the "freedom" of self-absorbed MAGA grunts.
DeSantis would be a terrifying figure if he weren’t a political incompetent when it comes to anything but lashing out as a government-backed bully. This guy still doesn't have an obvious path to the White House unless Donald Trump dies or flees the country—I promise you, the Republican base would absolutely still vote for Trump even if Trump were rotting in a federal prison on Election Day—but it's horrifying that this is what Republicanism has become.
Amid COVID surge, Republicans double down on doing nothing
Report: DeSantis took undisclosed private jet trips and lodgings from major donors
DeSantis says he will start 'slitting throats on day one' if elected president