Ron DeSantis Doubles Down on Fauci Criticism After Merchandise Backlash

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis doubled down on his criticism of White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci—days after it emerged that he was selling merchandise on his official website mocking the infectious diseases expert—saying that his state is choosing "freedom over Fauci-ism."

DeSantis made the comments during a speech at a religious liberty summit hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), just days after he felt the backlash for selling the memorabilia, which also mocks the U.S. coronavirus restrictions.

"When people [ask] what did you do in Florida?" DeSantis said. "I answer very shortly and clearly: Florida chose freedom over Fauci-ism. I wasn't about to let the state get Fauci'd," he added.

Newsweek has contacted Dr. Fauci for comment.

Various items are available to buy on the governor's official website. They include hats, flags and T-shirts featuring the slogan: "Keep Florida Free," as well as beverage coolers and other clothing emblazoned with the words: "Don't Fauci My Florida."

A number of Democrats and high-profile scientists have spoken out about the move to sell the merchandise.

In his speech, DeSantis accused the media and big tech of being biased against conservatives.

He said conservative lawmakers should: "Have the backbone and the wherewithal to be willing to stand for those right things when the going gets tough, when the lights get hot, when people are throwing stuff at you and are trying to smear you. That is really where I think the rubber meets the road."

DeSantis added that "academia, corporate media, big tech, big business – all of them adopt in various degrees a leftist, woke perspective in terms of what they want to see."

"Most of them are entirely hostile to any type of conservative values or traditional principles. That's just for sure," he added.

"So, you know that going in. That's what the battlefield looks like and if you stand up for the truth, you're going to face the wrath of these institutions in many respects. The media will almost assuredly try to smear you, Big Tech may censor you, and big business may even try to boycott you, boycott your state, boycott your jurisdiction, but that's what you have to be willing to put up with."

DeSantis also weighed in on the transgender athletes debate. Republican lawmakers in more than two dozen states, including Florida, have introduced bills that would prevent transgender athletes from being allowed to compete in women's sports.

Proponents of the bills argue that allowing transgender athletes to compete in women's sports would be unfair because athletes who were born as men and went through puberty have a biological advantage.

There has been much condemnation of the controversial bills from Democrats, along with organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which threatened to re-locate events in response.

Wading in on the debate, DeSantis said: "You see these women athletes who were competing, performing well and then they get out of a competition because you'd have two males that would beat them in track or some of these other things."

"And it's fundamentally unfair, it's discrimination against women athletes to force them to participate against male athletes. That's just the bottom line," he added.

Ron DeSantis in Surfside, Florida
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to the media about the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building that partially collapsed on July 3, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. DeSantis was mocked earlier this week for selling merchandise that criticised infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on his website. Michael Reaves/Getty