Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took aim at the Associated Press over what he described as a “partisan hit piece” about his state’s promotion of a coronavirus treatment during an appearance on “Hannity.”
“Well, it was clearly a partisan hit piece. They’re trying to act like this is not an effective treatment- it was a bizarre theory to boost Regeneron stock price, but as you know Sean, President Trump bought out all of the Regeneron last year, so it’s already been paid for by the federal government. When we take down from Florida to give to patients, there’s no charge for it. It has no financial incentive at all. All we’re trying to do is help people,” DeSantis told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday night.
The feud between DeSantis and the AP began last week when the news agency published a story that seemed to imply DeSantis was promoting Regeneron’s COVID antibody treatment because a Chicago-based hedge fund donated to a pro-DeSantis political committee also owns shares of the company. The headline of the widely-panned story read, “DeSantis top donor invests in COVID drug governor promotes.”
Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, then went after the AP on Twitter as well as AP reporter Brendan Farrington, who authored the story. That prompted incoming AP CEO Daisy Veerasingham to send a letter to DeSantis accusing his aide of “harassing behavior” and activating an “online mob” against Farrington. DeSantis fired back with a letter of his own slamming the “botched and discredited” smear against him.
The governor insisted that Regeneron had been “underutilized” over the past nine months and indicated had more COVID patients been aware of the monoclonal antibody treatment, “many of them would not have needed to go to the hospital.”
He then boasted the rollout of Regeneron centers that his administration established statewide, telling Hannity “this is having an impact on keeping people out of the hospital.”
“Now, what the AP did by trying to create a false narrative is some people may believe the narrative and then think that this is not a viable treatment for them so if they’re infected, they will not go seek a monoclonal antibody and that will ultimately increase their risk of hospitalization,” DeSantis said. “So the AP knew what they were doing, they wanted to do a political hit on me and the fallout from that is that there will likely be people who decline life-saving treatment. And then they have the temerity to act like they were the victim when they got called out on their hit piece.”
“Sean, the days of corporate media being able to smear people with impunity and conservatives do nothing- those days are over. I can tell you in Florida, we’re fighting back with the truth and we are going to hold you accountable when you are peddling false partisan narratives,” DeSantis added.
The AP did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment, but a spokesperson previously stated that the outlet stood by its story.
“The Associated Press does not have political opponents. We do accountability reporting about those in power, regardless of political affiliation,” the spokesperson told Fox News. “The issue here is not pushback. It’s harassment. A public servant whose job it is to work with the press encouraged a harassment campaign against our journalist, and that is unacceptable.”
The AP’s story acknowledged the drug is highly effective and has been touted by the Biden administration as well. The story also noted the DeSantis donor’s hedge fund, Citadel, had a smaller share in Regeneron than BlackRock, which has donated more to Democrats, and that Citadel’s investment in Regeneron “is a tiny fraction of its overall $39 billion in investments.”
Additionally, the story acknowledged it’s “not unusual for hedge funds to have a wide range of investments” but published the story with the damaging framework anyway.
Critics blasted the AP, many of them comparing the story to the “hit piece” that CBS News’ “60 Minutes” ran in April suggesting that DeSantis was involved in a “pay-for-play” scheme involving his administration giving first access to the COVID vaccine to the grocery store chain Publix following a contribution to his campaign.
Fox News’ David Rutz and Brian Flood contributed to this report.