A new report shows near-constant communication between Fox News and the Florida governor's office for months following the November presidential election.
On Friday, The Tampa Bay Times reported that it secured 1,250 pages of emails exchanged between Fox News and Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis' office, showing that the conservative television network made 113 requests for DeSantis to appear in roughly 120 days since the week of the 2020 presidential election.
Over the last year, DeSantis has all but taken up a permanent spot on Fox News. He's also considered to be a potential front-runner in the 2024 presidential campaign.
As Reuters reported in July, the Florida governor currently constitutes the only real threat to Trump, who is rumored to be weighing another run himself. "If Donald Trump has any plans for 2024, he needs to stop Ron DeSantis' ascent right now, because DeSantis is quickly becoming the leader of the party," a former Florida GOP congressman told the outlet. DeSantis has routinely come out on top of GOP 2024 straw polls, even besting Trump himself, Politico reported.
And the Florida governor has already begun the process of constructing a presidential-type narrative, appearing on Fox News routinely to attack Democratic positions. He's appeared on the network to attack the Biden administration's border policies, to complain about "critical race theory" purportedly being taught in K-12 schools, and to advocate for tougher voting restrictions opposed by Democrats.
The Times report notes this is a departure from his strategy 2019, when DeSantis narrowly won his election and stopped appearing so much on the network.
Based on appearance recorded on his public calendar, he has made more appearances on Fox News programs hosted by Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson this year — 21 times in total — than he has met with his lieutenant governor, Jeanette Nuñez, who he had 7 meetings with. And he didn't meet with the state's top public health official once.
He's notoriously utilized the network in his official capacity as Florida's governor for exclusive, made-for-television moments.
Just a few weeks later, DeSantis went on Fox to give an official "reprieve" to a gym owner who had been arrested multiple times for violating Florida's COVID-19 safety regulations. (He received a full pardon from the governor a month later, along with other Florida residents charged for violating pandemic rules.)
And as COVID-19 infections spiked among the unvaccinated with the spread of the delta variant, DeSantis went to Fox to voice his opposition to mask mandates in schools and has threatened the salaries of school officials over the practice.
In a statement to the Times, DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske defended the relationship, noting, "Fox News was willing to hear our perspective and report the facts."
The email correspondence obtained by the outlet was rife with flattery for DeSantis.
After one appearance, a Fox producer gushed to DeSantis' communications team, "I honestly think he could host the show with the chops we saw from him at the vaccine site." Another email praised him for speaking "wonderfully" at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March, and yet another stated, "We see him as the future of the party."
Fox appears to be following a similar pattern with DeSantis to the one the network operated under in the lead-up to Donald Trump's election to the presidency.
During the 2016 presidential cycle, Trump appeared on Fox News more often than any other Republican presidential candidate, according to research done by progressive watchdog Media Matters.
After he was elected, Trump leaned heavily on Fox appearances, often choosing to be quizzed by the network's friendly hosts rather than speaking to reporters from other outlets that might challenge him. Trump was also a heavy Fox News watcher and reportedly used the network to guide many of his political decisions.
And Republicans have made clear that Fox is a preferred source for information. In a Pew Research poll from 2019, 93% of them cited Fox as their "main source for political and election news."
Recent polling shows that DeSantis has gained support among Republicans thinking about the 2024 presidential election as his appearances on Fox News increased.
A nationwide poll of Republican voters conducted in July found him running second to Trump as the choice for the next election. But when Trump was removed from the equation, DeSantis was far ahead of other possible Republican nominees: 39% of respondents chose DeSantis, putting him considerably ahead of his runner-up, former Vice President Mike Pence, who only got 15% of voters polled.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.