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Liberal media members had “meltdowns” on Wednesday when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R., suggested a group of high school students should take off their face masks and stop engaging in “COVID theater” in a clip that went viral on social media.
The reaction of liberal pundits and reporters raised eyebrows on the right, as Present Biden delivered a maskless State of the Union address less than 24 hours before the Republican governor’s comments.
“It’s past time we’ve deemed these media meltdowns over DeSantis as a mass murderer a symptom of DeSantis Derangement Syndrome, or DDS,” NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News Digital.
“You do not have to wear those masks,” the Florida Republican, who has been one of the nation’s most outspoken governors against mask and vaccine mandates, told students Wednesday as he walked up to a podium at the University of South Florida.
“Please take them off,” DeSantis continued. “Honestly, it’s not doing anything. We’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”
The left quickly reacted, with many liberal pundits accusing the governor of berating the students. Incoming CNN+ host Jemele Hill declared in a profanity-filled tweet she would have “cussed him clean out in front of everybody” if the governor spoke to her child that way.
“What a punk a– move to get loud with kids who aren’t in a position to tell you to f–k off,” Hill wrote.
Reid fired off multiple tweets, even calling DeSantis “Florida’s white nationalist helicopter parent,” and saying kids should be allowed to be disrespectful to him.
“I would have had to instruct my kids that DeSantis is one of those exceptions to treating adults with respect. They would have had my permission to tell him to f—k off and to keep their masks right whew they were,” Reid wrote in a separate tweet.
The Miami Herald declared, “In rant against students wearing masks, DeSantis channels his inner Karen,” in a column by the editorial board that referenced the derogatory term typically used to describe White women who appear agitated. Actor Jon Cryer claimed, “If he did this to my kid, I’d punch him in the face.”
Those were just a few of hundreds of angry tweets that were fired off as footage circulated. MSNBC’s Michael Steele called the governor “ridiculous,” journalist Ahmed Baba called him a “thin-skinned loser fake tough guy” and author Frederick Joseph added, “Ron DeSantis is arguably the most dangerous Republican in the country.” CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote DeSantis had “yelled” at the students.
DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw told Fox News the governor did not berate the children despite claims by liberal pundits.
“The kids laughed after he said it,” Pushaw said. “They knew he wasn’t frustrated with them but with the peer pressure around masking in schools.”
Fox News Digital followed up with Pushaw on Thursday, and the governor’s spokesperson elaborated on her stance.
“As the governor said, ‘You can wear them if you want,’ but stated facts that there’s no evidence masks make any difference … After two years of mixed messages from health authorities and media, the governor wants to make sure everyone is aware of the facts and data now, so they can feel free and comfortable without a mask,” Pushaw told Fox News Digital.
“If hundreds of politicians are able to crowd into the State of the Union mask-free, then kids and teens – who are much lower risk from COVID – should also feel comfortable going mask-free,” Pushaw added, noting two of the people behind DeSantis opted to continue wearing their masks. “Contrast that with the behavior of forced-masker politicians in Florida, who suspended a second-grader from school for 40 days because she didn’t wear a mask. Those are the real bullies, and we are so glad they are becoming irrelevant.”
Indeed, a Florida second-grader was reportedly suspended nearly 40 separate times last year after repeatedly refusing to wear a mask in the classroom.
Pushaw said the students were at DeSantis’ event on Wednesday because they’re “interested in studying cybersecurity, not because of political activism,” which is what she feels mask-pushing has become. She rejected rumors that Democrats had set up the event by telling students to wear masks.
“I do not believe they wanted to be part of any political stunt to promote masking or anything like that. Mask-wearing is normalized by the administration in many liberal leaning schools, and Governor DeSantis just wanted to let them know it’s useless, and they can make their own decisions about it,” she said.
Houck said the media’s reaction to DeSantis’ comments were a “predictable” turn of events and suggested the “liberal media meltdown” was due to fear of DeSantis having potentially broad appeal.
“The liberal media meltdown was one of the best reminders yet of how fearful they are of DeSantis having broad appeal to voters. Considering the levels in which some Democratic governors and mayors went just a few weeks ago to keep their citizens under their thumbs like it was spring 2020, it’s comical to insist he was being dictatorial and, at minimum, a jerk to young people,” Houck told Fox News Digital.
“Aside from those who’ve become blinded by masking as an idol, most if not all of the journalists who’ve freaked out here know the real science and that it’s time to move on,” Houck added.
Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson feels the attacks on DeSantis are calculated.
“The mainstream media is targeting DeSantis because they recognize him as a strong 2024 contender, particularly if Trump does not run. So as they did with numerous other Republican presidential hopefuls, they will try to nitpick him to death and obsess over him in order to create a narrative. It is all political,” Jacobson told Fox News Digital.
Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.