From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject What did DeSantis actually say about 2020 election?
Date August 8, 2023 11:29 AM
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“Of course he lost,” the candidate says of Donald Trump in an NBC News interview. Then he seems to question how the election was run. Email not displaying correctly?
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What did Ron DeSantis actually say about the 2020 presidential election?
Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, is interviewed by NBC News’ Dasha Burns. (Courtesy of NBC News)

A very big deal was made Monday about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his interview with NBC News’ Dasha Burns ([link removed]) .

For starters, it was a big deal that DeSantis sat down with NBC News to begin with. For quite some time — we’re talking a couple of years — DeSantis has shunned most media. Well, other than the friendly faces, and mostly softball questions, he gets from conservative outlets.

Lately, however, he has been more open to expanding his media presence. That’s likely due to a presidential campaign that is spinning its wheels and looking for something — anything — to get it moving in the right direction. Whatever the reason, DeSantis agreed to be interviewed last month by CNN’s Jake Tapper, and on Monday, he sat down with Burns and NBC.

One topic in particular became a very big deal on Monday. DeSantis was asked if Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. DeSantis started with the verbal tap dancing.

“Whoever puts their hand on the Bible on Jan. 20 every four years is the winner,” DeSantis said.

Burns smartly pushed back, saying, “Respectfully, you did not clearly answer that question. And if you can’t give a yes or no answer on whether or not Trump lost, then how can you … .”

Before Burns could finish her follow-up question, DeSantis said, “Of course he lost.”

Burns repeated, “Trump lost the 2020 election?”

DeSantis said, “Of course. … Joe Biden is the president.”

It’s sad that this is still a question in 2023, but when so many politicians refuse to admit Trump lost, reporters are almost required to ask. DeSantis, to his credit, answered the question directly.

Many media outlets jumped on that specific quote. The New York Times made a headline ([link removed]) out of it. So did CNN ([link removed]) and The Associated Press ([link removed]) . And for this reason: After past sidesteps around answering the question directly, DeSantis finally said Trump lost.

But then he quickly followed the big money quote with “Joe Biden is the president,” which is a phrase many have used in the past when asked if Trump lost. It’s a non-answer answer. And DeSantis continued by saying, “But the issue, I think, with people in the media and elsewhere — they want to act like somehow this is just like the perfect election. … I don’t think it was a good-run election. But I also think Republicans didn’t fight back. You’ve got to fight back when that is happening."

So, wait, is he still casting doubts on the results?

That’s why I’m still not sold on DeSantis’ answer, despite the headlines it generated. (And to be clear, I thought Burns did a good job asking the questions.)

Maybe DeSantis is sincere when he says Trump lost. But the abridged quote in print feels more forceful that Trump lost than the quote on video and in full context.

Then again, DeSantis has said recently that the Republican party needs to look forward and not back. He told Burns, “If the election is a referendum on Joe Biden’s policies and the failures that we’ve seen and we are presenting a positive vision for the future, we will win the presidency and we will have a chance to turn the country around. If, on the other hand, the election is not about Jan. 20, 2025, but Jan. 6, 2021, or what document was left by the toilet at Mar-a-Lago, if it’s a referendum on that, we are going to lose.”

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** Solid investigation

One of the missions of this newsletter is to point out excellent and impactful journalism. On that front today, I direct you to this outstanding work from NBC News’ Suzy Khimm, Elizabeth Chuck and Kate Martin: “Nursing pillows are associated with more than 160 infant deaths, NBC News investigation finds.” ([link removed])

The reporters wrote, “At least 162 babies under a year old have died in incidents involving nursing pillows since 2007, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis based on hundreds of public records as well as internal federal data. Some of the babies slumped down on the pillows or arched backward off of them, constricting their airways. Others turned their faces into the plush surface, suffocating as their parents slept feet away.”

NBC News goes on to say that the number of deaths almost certainly is an undercount.

They also wrote this important passage:

“Nursing pillows have become a must-have item for many new parents, with 1.34 million sold per year in the U.S., according to industry estimates. The horseshoe-shaped cushions, which come in a variety of colorful prints, are marketed as essential for the early months of life, when babies need to be fed frequently. Manufacturers say they’re safe if used as intended: to help caregivers cradle their babies while breastfeeding or bottle-feeding them. But infants left unsupervised on the cushions or allowed to sleep with them — against the products’ warning labels — can stop breathing within minutes.”

** What’s the call?

This is a strange story. Kevin Brown, a TV sportscaster who calls Baltimore Orioles games on MASN, hasn’t been on the air for a little more than a week. Awful Announcing’s Andrew Bucholtz, Sean Keeley, and Ben Koo reported ([link removed]) that Brown was suspended for merely pointing out ([link removed]) on the air that the Orioles had won more games against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg this season than the past two seasons combined. (A Baltimore media personality who runs podcasts and websites also that reported ([link removed]) Brown’s comments got him suspended.)

Apparently, Orioles chair John Angelos was not happy and that led to the suspension.

Wait, that’s it? That’s hard to believe. I’m not doubting the reporting. But it’s hard to imagine someone being suspended for something so innocuous.

After that Rays series, Brown shifted to radio for a series and then hasn’t been on radio or TV since July 26. The Awful Announcing reporters wrote, “Awful Announcing has confirmed through multiple sources familiar with the situation that Brown has been suspended indefinitely, that it came after the Rays series, that he only wound up on the radio for the Phillies’ series thanks to another controversy about a different announcer’s apparel, and that the comment here seems to be what’s at issue.”

There has to be more, doesn’t there?

The Baltimore Banner’s Andy Kostka reported ([link removed]) later on Monday that a senior Orioles official said Brown will return to the airwaves soon. The official told Kostka, “We don’t comment on employment decisions, however, Kevin Brown will be back with us in the near future.”

The official would not comment on the Awful Announcing story.

I still think the whole thing smells fishy.

** You can’t make this up
Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, left, and X owner Elon Musk (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, Stephan Savoia, File)

OK, let’s get to the really important stuff. Is this fight between tech giants Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk going to happen or what? The two seemed all in on actually getting into a ring or cage or whatever and fighting. Like for real.

If you believe social media posts, Zuckerberg looks to be training hard and says he’s ready to fight, but he added, “Not holding my breath.”

That’s a good thing because Musk now says he’s hurt. On Sunday night, Musk tweeted ([link removed]) , “Exact date is still in flux. I’m getting an MRI of my neck & upper back tomorrow. May require surgery before the fight can happen. Will know this week.”

Before that, Musk had tweeted that the fight would be live-streamed on X and the proceeds would go to veterans.

** Media tidbits
* Semafor’s Max Tani with a scoop that the Baghdad bureau chief for The New York Times was put on leave and subsequently fired after clashing with the paper’s management. Here’s his original report: “New York Times is investigating its Baghdad bureau chief.” ([link removed])
* Mediaite’s Ken Meyer with “Fox News Anchor Defends Trump: ‘Hatching Schemes to Stay in Office is Not a Crime.’” ([link removed])
* This is from this past weekend: The Texas Tribune’s Kate McGee with “Texas A&M leaders’ text messages show desire to counteract perceived liberal agenda in higher education.” ([link removed])
* David Noriega has joined NBC/MSNBC as a correspondent based in Los Angeles. Noriega comes over from Vice News, where he covered criminal justice, organized extremism, labor issues across the United States and migration across the Americas, North Africa and Europe. Prior to Vice, Noriega worked at BuzzFeed News.
* From American Press Institute: “API launches Civic Discourse and Community Voices Fund to enable local news experiments.” ([link removed])
* Nieman Lab with “Bob Giles, former Nieman Foundation curator, dies at 90.” ([link removed])

** Hot type

Just one Hot Type item today because I really would like you to read it. There aren’t many (if any) better feature writers in the country than The Atlantic’s Jennifer Senior, who won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. Her latest is deeply personal and very touching: “THE ONES WE SENT AWAY. I thought my mother was an only child. I was wrong.” ([link removed])

** More resources for journalists
* Tickets for Poynter’s Bowtie Ball ([link removed]) , honoring Anderson Cooper, go on sale Sept. 11, but you can get tickets before anyone else. Learn how. ([link removed])
* Executive Leadership Summit ([link removed]) (Oct.) (Seminar) — Apply by Aug. 14 ([link removed]) .
* Covering Climate Change Science and Policy in a Polarized World ([link removed]) (Seminar, Washington D.C.) — Apply Aug. 14 ([link removed]) .
* Power of Diverse Voices: Writing Workshop for Journalists of Color ([link removed]) (Nov. 15-18) (Seminar) — Apply by Sept. 15 ([link removed]) .

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) .
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