Leaked DeSantis Tape Has a Different Effect Than Mainstream Media Was Probably Hoping For


If leaking Ron DeSantis debate tapes was supposed to be damaging, it isn’t doing much.

The Florida governor, and the most widely discussed not-yet-candidate for the Republican nomination for president, became the latest apparent target of a smear campaign on Sunday when ABC News started showing excerpts of his practice sessions preparing to debate Democrat Andrew Gillum in the 2018 governor’s race.

It’s working as well as the same trick when it was tried against Tucker Carlson.

So far, anyway, the coverage has been built on a two-pronged attack: One is a willful distortion of what’s being said; the other is simply headlined with a lie. Or, as the DeSantis team branded it, according to Fox News: “Another swing and a miss from Disney-funded ABC.”

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The two big “gotchas” from ABC’s coverage appear to be that DeSantis wanted to be cautious about potentially alienating supporters of then-President Donald Trump and his frustration over the mainstream media’s obsession with race as a talking point in his campaign against Gillum, who is black (and a deeply troubled man, as it turned out).

Both scenarios have to be achingly familiar to any Republican running for office since Donald Trump declared for the presidency back in 2015.

Two years out of the White House, Trump remains the most dominating personality in American politics — as a man, far more dominating than the doddering Joe Biden. Every Republican leader, in office or out, is measured against that. (So is every Democrat, actually, but from a different perspective.)

Do you want Ron DeSantis to run for president in 2024?

And the left has used the boogeyman of racial politics as a weapon for so long, with such malicious dishonesty, that every Republican knows it needs to be handled like it’s radioactive.

So, what exactly did DeSantis say about Trump?

Here’s how ABC headlined it: “Don’t ‘piss off his voters’: Recordings reveal DeSantis’ 2018 thoughts on dealing with Trump.”

That’s about the level of lies to expect from the home of “The View.”

According to the recordings leaked to ABC — and edited by ABC — DeSantis was asked by fellow Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, apparently playing the role of a debate moderator, “Is there any issue upon which you disagree with President Trump?”

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(The exchange occurs about the 10-second mark in the video below.)

“Obviously there is because, I mean, I voted contrary to him in the past,” DeSantis said. “I have to frame it in a way that’s not going to piss off all his voters.”

That’s politics 101. A disagreement over one issue can’t be allowed to become a disagreement over bigger issues.

(It’s a good bet there are plenty of recordings sitting around that show Democratic candidates grappling with the same question about Barack Obama from 2008 to the present. Don’t expect to see them getting leaked to ABC, though. Or be aired if they are.)

If DeSantis does declare a run for the presidency, the country is going to have plenty of time to see him air out his differences with Trump — and he’ll be trying very hard not to alienate Trump’s voters while he does it.

That’s not because he’s not honest. It’s because he’s not stupid. (Democrats would love nothing better than to see Trump voters turn rock solid against DeSantis. Regrettably, there are plenty of comments on social media that reflect just that.)

Another way to put it would be: “DeSantis wants to unite Republican voters.” But ABC wouldn’t get any juice out of that.

When it comes to the racial question, though, the network’s coverage was even worse.

The headline was “In 2018 debate prep, recordings show DeSantis feared becoming ‘mini version of Kavanaugh’ over racial issues.”

The reference, of course, is to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, which were disrupted by ever-more-ludicrous accusations of sexual assault, starting with a California professor’s story about an incident she claimed occurred sometime in the early 1980s, in a home she couldn’t identify, under circumstances she couldn’t remember. (The accusations got even less credible as more women came forward, and the dishonesty became apparent.)

The key word — and the key lie — in the headline is “feared.”

The words “mini version of Kavanaugh” don’t appear in the video on ABC’s tweet, but if anything, DeSantis sounds like he wants to be a version of Kavanaugh, whose forceful defense of himself and his reputation on national television savaged the libelous attacks and made his confirmation possible.

In the DeSantis case, one of the trumped-up charges of “racism” had to do with his statement after winning the 2018 GOP primary: “The last thing we need to do is monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda.”

Democrats and the mainstream media tried to seize on that as having racist connotations.

DeSantis, on the video, is understandably furious that so many critics insisted on being wilfully obtuse.

“If I show any weakness on that, I think I lose my base,” DeSantis said, according to ABC. “I think that I appear to be less than a leader, and so I just think I’ve got to come at it full throttle and say that’s wrong.”

Gaetz advised him he was “coming in too hot.” (When the famously hotheaded Gaetz says “coming in too hot,” it’s pretty hot.)

DeSantis wasn’t backing down, though.

“It deserves to be hot,” DeSantis said. “I mean, I’m sorry … Kavanaugh showed that when you say f*** this …” (Note, the expletive is a guess, based on some amateur lip-reading. It might have been “monkey this” instead.)

Now, no one is advising Republican politicians they should start talking like trash. But there are times when a good barnyard epithet is really the only way to describe the unfounded accusations GOP candidates face on a regular basis from Democrats and their establishment media allies.

That’s what DeSantis was doing here.

Judging by some responses on social media, whatever ABC was doing here wasn’t working.

Gaetz — a strong supporter of Trump — called the leak of the tapes “disloyal hackery.”

Social media users were equally scornful, with some pointing out — like the DeSantis camp did — that ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Corp., which is currently embroiled in a war with DeSantis over the company’s future in central Florida.

And many said the candor on the tapes made DeSantis more appealing.

Just like the leaked Fox videos that show former Fox host Tucker Carlson making comments never meant to be broadcast, and simply making him more likable, the DeSantis debate tapes are having the opposite effect of what was likely intended.

As of Monday, there was no telling who was actually behind the leaks. Some dirty pool from Disney, maybe?

Democrats getting an early shot at a man who is going to be a political threat at some point, whether in 2024 or beyond?

Or even a pro-Trump operative trying to kneecap a potential rival?

The only thing that is sure is that the attack isn’t working.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.