Talk about a friendly audience — Gov. Ron DeSantis opened the floor for questions at the end of a Jacksonville news conference Monday and left after allowing a single person in the crowd to shout what sounded like, “We love you.”
“Oh, I love you, too,” the governor responded. He then said, “God bless, everybody.” He waved with both hands and added, “We’ll see ya.”
DeSantis then turned his back and left the stage at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center in Jacksonville, where he’d gone to personally hand over $1,000 pay bonus checks to 50 first responders under the second year of a legislatively approved program.
He said nearly 100,000 cops, firefighters, EMTs, and other public servants would receive checks in the mail during the next few weeks. The amounts have been calculated to cover any federal income tax, the governor said.
News organizations definitely attended the event, gubernatorial press secretary Bryan Griffin told the Phoenix by email but the governor’s quick departure gave them no time to question him.
“Yes, the press conference was advised as normal on our advisory listserv, and press attended. Today’s RSVPs included Hola News, Action News Jax, WJCT, First Coast News, and WJXT,” Griffin wrote.
“I wasn’t there today, but it would appear that the press had no questions and people love the governor,” he added.
However, deputy press secretary Jeremy Redfern, who said by email that he did attend the event, confirmed: “I was standing in the back and no one from the press asked questions.”
The Phoenix, based in Tallahassee, observed the press conference via the Florida Channel. On that medium, it can be difficult to hear questions asked of the governor because his interrogators often are unmiced.
It’s hardly unheard of for the governor to call a press conference but decline to take questions from the actual press, either through failing to open the floor to them or by basking in praise from the supporters who attend his audiences.
And it’s not like there were no pertinent questions the press and public might want answered some eight weeks before the conclusion on Nov. 8 of his reelection bid against Democrat Charlie Crist, the congressman from Pinellas County.
The Florida Democratic Party posited a list of such questions in advance of the governor’s scheduled appearance, including whether he is he OK with Attorney General Ashley Moody’s court pleading asking the Florida Supreme Court to reverse the state’s constitutional protection for abortion access?
Does he support a complete abortion ban (existing state law cuts off access after 15 weeks’ gestation)?
Additional questions involved DeSantis’ relationship with Florida Power & Light and its rate increases, whether to bus Cuban immigrants out of state, and the DeSantis-Crist televised debate schedule.
–Michael Moline. Florida Phoenix