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46th Governor of Florida
GOP Presidential Candidate
- Updated: July 27, 2023
—Staffers on DeSantis’s presidential campaign team kept re-tweeting videos from a DeSantis fan account that “adds Nazi imagery to clips of the Florida governor.” DeSantis communications staffer Nate Hochman was fired over the matter, and a person with knowledge of the videos said Hochman made the videos himself. In a separate incident Hochman told white nationalist Nick Fuentes that he would be a good influence on young conservatives. “I think Nick’s probably a better influence than Ben Shapiro on young men who might otherwise be conservative,” he said.
—Defended as “totally fair game” an anti-LGBTQ campaign ad posted to Twitter by the unofficial account DeSantis War Room. The ad features Donald Trump in 2016 saying he would do “everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens” (the evidence to the contrary is here) and then contrasting that message with DeSantis’ policies targeting transgender and LGBTQ rights in the state of Florida. The tweet, criticized as anti-LGBTQ by Democrats and Republicans, was also shared by the governor’s presidential campaign. The video has been deleted.
To wrap up “Pride Month,” let’s hear from the politician who did more than any other Republican to celebrate it…
— DeSantis War Room 🐊 (@DeSantisWarRoom) June 30, 2023
—Suggested building a new state prison next to Disney’s central Florida theme parks in retaliation for the company speaking out against his “Don’t Say Gay” law.
—Falsely claimed that books were not being banned in Florida, despite video evidence showing empty book shelves, guidance to librarians to not shelve certain books, and statements from school districts noting they are removing books with LGBTQ themes or about people of color, including a book about Roberto Clemente, “to comply with Florida laws on library books.” PEN America said the Clemente book is one of 176 pulled by Duval County Public Schools since last year including books about Japanese internment camps, about Henry Aaron, and the book “My Two Dads and Me.”
—Issued a survey to Florida’s 12 universities and 28 state and community colleges asking which of these institutions provide services to transgender students. DeSantis’ director of budget and planning’s memo to higher education reads in part, “our office has learned that several state universities provide services to persons suffering from gender dysphoria. On behalf of the Governor, I hereby request that you respond to the enclosed inquiries related to such services.” The survey wants to know “what colleges and universities are spending on any transgender services, information including student ages, hormone prescriptions, and medical procedures including surgeries.” An estimated 17,000 students at these institutions may be transgender or gender nonconforming.
—Rejected an African American AP history course in Florida high schools. The Florida Department of Education rejected the course, which is being offered to high schools across the country for the 2024–2025 school year saying it is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” DeSantis is behind the “Stop WOKE” Act, which restricts race-related content in workplaces, schools, and colleges—but was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in 2022.
—Campaigned for and endorsed losing 2020 election denying candidates who also espoused anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies including losing Senate candidates Blake Masters, Mehmet Oz and Adam Laxalt, and losing gubernatorial candidates Kari Lake, Doug Mastriano, Lee Zeldin, Tim Michels, Mark Ronchetti and Derek Schmidt. Campaigned with anti-LGBTQ candidates JD Vance, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt who signed legislation into law restricting private birth certificate changes and defunding children’s hospitals that also provide evidence-based best practices healthcare for trans youth, Mike Lee, and former Trump White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who defended the former president’s baseless tweeted ban of transgender military members.
—During gubernatorial debate, falsely compared puberty blockers to “chemical castration.” Puberty blockers have been used for decades in non-LGBTQ children as well as men to treat prostate cancer, and are reversible. Falsely claimed doctors were performing “double mastectomies on young girls.” Only a small number of trans teens pursue top surgery and fewer than 1% of trans people who have surgery experience regret.
—Backed the Florida Department of Education’s advice to schools to disregard proposed federal guidelines that protect transgender youth. Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. told superintendents, school boards, private school owners, and charter school governing boards they have “no obligation” to follow the Title IX equity rules laid out by the Biden administration which seek to reinstate regulations tossed out by the Trump administration. The regulations include protections from discrimination based on gender identity as well as sexual orientation. Diaz’s memo said schools should not “modify your practices or procedures based on these documents,” and warned against allowing transgender students to use facilities including bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. It also directed schools to disallow transgender children from playing in sports or staying in rooms on class trips with students who align with their gender identity. The memo described the Biden administration regulations as “sexual ideology.”
—Lied about gender affirming care in interview on Fox News: “They will actually take a young boy and castrate the boy. They will take a young girl and do a mastectomy, or they will sterilize her because of the gender dysphoria. There is no evidence that this is something that’s effective medical care.” Longstanding best practices medical care for trans youth does not include surgeries or sterilization on young children. Every major medical association supports gender affirming care as evidence-based, lifesaving care, with growing and consistent research that it improves mental health and wellbeing for transgender and nonbinary youth. A June 2022 poll found that a majority of voters in Florida (54%) agree transgender minors should have access to gender affirming care if recommended by their doctor and/or supported by their parents, while one-fifth feel that they should have access to this care regardless (21%).
—After losing in the legislature to make gender affirming care illegal, directed state agencies to issue guidance to begin to strip Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming care, despite the fact that it is supported by every major medical association.
—Targeted small business owner hosting drag brunch, using state agencies to harass and threaten R House, a restaurant and lounge in Miami. The Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed the complaint, citing a 1947 law against “men impersonating women.”
—Condemned the Walt Disney Company following Disney chief executive Bob Chapek’s acknowledgement of error in staying silent on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation and subsequent public opposition to the legislation which DeSantis signed into law. Chapek’s online statement, emailed to staffers, said Disney was wrong to stay silent as the Republican-majority Florida legislature passed a bill he called “yet another challenge to basic human rights.” Disney also said it would suspend political donations in the state. DeSantis sent a fundraising email that read: “Disney is in far too deep with the communist party of China and has lost any moral authority to tell you what to do.”
—DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, libeled opponents of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill as sexual predators. On Twitter, Pushaw wrote: “The bill that liberals inaccurately call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would be more accurately described as Anti-Grooming Bill.” Pushaw added, “If you’re against the anti-Grooming bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4- to 8-year-old children. Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.” Sexual grooming is a preparatory process in which a perpetrator gradually gains a person’s or organization’s trust with the intent to be sexually abusive. Claiming, despite evidence to the contrary, that gay people are pedophiles, is a long-used scapegoating tactic by religious fundamentalists around the globe, and is a tactic used by Russian President Vladimir Putin to garner support for his gay “propaganda” ban.
—Defended the anti-LGBTQ “don’t say gay” bill, and lied about the contents of the legislation saying that it was about “no sexual instruction” given to young students and “transgenderism or something injected into classroom instruction.” He continued, “It’s basically saying for our younger students, do you really want them being taught about sex? And this is any sexual stuff. But I think clearly right now, we see a focus on transgenderism, telling kids they may be able to pick genders and all of that.” The bill‘s text prohibits school districts from encouraging “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels,” not “sexual instruction” as DeSantis claims. The Trevor Project research shows LGBTQ students who learned about LGBTQ issues or people at school had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year.
—Took down a Department of Education website that supplied educators, parents, and students with anti-bullying resources. The page featured links to federal government anti-bullying initiatives (stopbullying.gov), information on creating safe spaces for LGBTQ young people to receive support from school staff, and additional information from national leaders in combating mental health crises and suicidality among LGBTQ students.
—Signed a restrictive transgender youth sports ban into law, on the first day of LGBTQ Pride Month. The law bans transgender girls and women in public secondary schools and colleges in Florida from participating on girls’ and women’s sports teams.
—Vetoed all funding for LGBTQ programs from the $101 billion state budget, including $150,000 for mental health programming to support survivors of the Pulse Massacre and $750,000 to house homeless LGBTQ children, as well as funds for Orlando’s LGBTQ Community Center. The veto came during LGBTQ Pride Month and just days before the fifth anniversary of the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, one of the worst in United States history which targeted Central Florida’s LGBTQ and LatinX Communities, claiming the lives of 49 people.
—Signed an anti-discrimination order for state employees that excludes protections for LGBTQ people. Signed just hours after DeSantis was sworn into office, the order pledges that his administration will prohibit discrimination in employment based on “age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status or disability” for government employees and contractors. The order does not include protctions based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”
The GLAAD Accountability Project catalogs anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and discriminatory actions of politicians, commentators, organization heads, religious leaders, and legal figures, who have used their platforms, influence and power to spread misinformation and harm LGBTQ people.
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For GLAAD Media Institute Alum Kevin Anderson, interviews with journalists have become increasingly prevalent in…