Florida Newspaper Blasts Ron DeSantis as 'Fraud' Over COVID Victory Lap: 'What a Phony'

A prominent Florida newspaper denounced Republican Governor Ron DeSantis after he attempted to take credit for declining COVID-19 infections throughout the state.

The editorial board of the Orlando Sentinel slammed DeSantis as a "fraud" and a "phony" in an editorial on Friday after he touted Florida's low COVID-19 case rate in a Wednesday press release. The governor's office claimed that the recent decline was due to DeSantis' "leadership and our data-driven approach free of mandates."

"With numbers finally falling, DeSantis now has the gall, the nerve, to take a victory lap," the newspaper's editorial board said.

"Florida led the nation in case rates for much of the summer, and our governor was silent. Well, not totally silent. He did rail against mask and vaccine mandates, measures intended to prevent people from falling ill," the editors wrote.

"Now, a governor whose sole contribution to fighting the outbreak was to expand antibody treatments for people after they got infected is taking full credit for the decline in cases," the editorial board added.

Ron DeSantis
The editorial board of the Orlando Sentinel called Florida Governor Ron DeSantis a "fraud" and a "phony" for his claiming credit for the state's falling COVID rates. Pictured, DeSantis waits to present a check to a first responder during an event to give out bonuses at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside on August 10 in Surfside, Florida Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The editorial argued that DeSantis was acting like "a firefighter tossing a bucket of water on a house that's already been burned to the ground and then declaring victory." The writers decried the governor's response by saying, "What a fraud. What a phony."

The editorial board went on to compare the summer COVID surge in Florida, the nation's third most populous state, to the numbers in California, the state with the largest population. California is led by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.

"Between the start of July and the end of October, about 21,000 people died of COVID in Florida, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Those four deadly, tragic months accounted for one in every three of the total COVID deaths—nearly 60,000 victims — since the pandemic began 20 months ago," the board wrote.

"Compare that to California, a warm-weather state with nearly twice the population of Florida and a governor who believes in public health. California had just 8,600 deaths during that same summer surge, according to Johns Hopkins, representing about 11 percent of its total COVID deaths since the pandemic began."

The editorial described the Florida governor's response as "Orwellian," a reference to George Orwell, the author of the classic dystopian novel 1984.

"Now, the do-nothing governor is trying to claim credit for this surge coming to an end.
It is DeSantis' final and most essential command — to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. How Orwellian," they concluded.

DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw dismissed the editorial board's criticism. "The corporate media blames Governor DeSantis when cases are high, but refuses to give him credit when cases are low? Completely illogical. This is why most Americans don't trust the media," Pushaw said in an email to Newsweek.

DeSantis has opposed masking requirements as well as vaccine mandates. Throughout the pandemic, the Republican governor has pushed back against local officials' efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 through lockdowns and other methods. His response to the pandemic has drawn bipartisan criticism.

"I'm a conservative. I think you govern best when you govern closest to the people being governed. And if a local community is having—their ICU is full, and the people at the local schools see that they've got to stay open, because otherwise children miss out for another year of school, and they put in policy, then the local official should be listened to," Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican who is also a physician, told CNN in August.

"That is a conservative principle," Cassidy said, asserting that he disagreed with DeSantis' decision to ban local officials from implementing mask mandates for schools.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, nearly 60,000 Floridians have died from the coronavirus. The state has seen more than 3.6 million infections. As of Friday, about 60 percent of the state's population was fully vaccinated.