While Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted a law called the Parents’ Bill of Rights, he didn’t take into consideration Wednesday that he could be imposing on parent rights when he aggressively told masked students they they didn’t have to wear them.
“You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please, take them off,” DeSantis said at a Tampa press conference. “Honestly, it’s not doing anything. And we’ve got to stop with this COVID theater,” he told the students.
“So, if you want to wear it — fine. But this is, this is ridiculous, ” he told the students.
The governor scoffed, prior to starting the press conference. Some students removed their masks, but not all. With COVID cases declining dramatically, mask wearing also has decreased in Florida and elsewhere. [Florida this week is expected to exceed 70,000 deaths from Covid since the pandemic began two years ago. The governor’s claim about masks’ ineffectiveness are factually disproven by numerous studies.]
However, DeSantis’ behavior Wednesday toward the students appears to conflict with his freedom philosophy.
A video of the exchange was posted to Twitter by Evan Donovan of WFLA after the press conference, and quickly received condemnation from DeSantis critics.
The video of DeSantis’ behavior and the follow-up reactions serve as a reminder that the 2022 gubernatorial elections are right around the corner and campaign season is ramping up, along with the political scrutiny and public attention that comes with it.
NEW: @GovRonDeSantis annoyed with USF students—
"You do not have to wear those masks. Please take them off. Honestly, it's not doing anything. We've gotta stop with this Covid theater. So if you wanna wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous."https://t.co/7j1Pb2hV53 @WFLA pic.twitter.com/ZIOyTHLOh3
— Evan Donovan (@EvanDonovan) March 2, 2022
The three main contenders for the Democratic nominee weighed in on the video.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, sent out a written statement:
“I can’t believe a grown man would bully high school students like that. He’s clearly unhinged. The governor talks a lot about freedom, but only if he gets his way. That’s not freedom, that’s dictatorial and unacceptable. This clip shows you who he really is. And it’s everything I’m not. Floridians deserve something new and someone new — someone who doesn’t bully high school students.”
Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor of Florida and a Democrat in Congress, tweeted in response:
“Young people in our state deserve to be treated with respect, not dunked on by a heartless, egotistical governor with a political agenda.”
State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who represents part of Miami-Dade County, called it “a new low even for this governor” on twitter, and invoked DeSantis’ common talking point about protecting a parents’ right to direct the upbringing of their child.
“Students should never be berated for their personal choice to wear a mask. Maybe it’s the parents’ choice? Aren’t we all about “parental rights”? It’s clear the governor has put aside individual choice and freedom,” Taddeo tweeted.
Back at the conference, DeSantis capped his press conference with a 5-minute commentary on President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address from the previous evening, which you can read here.
“The striking thing is we have a lot of problems in this country, and that’s something you obviously have to deal with, but it’s striking that so many of these problems by Biden and his administration since he’s become president,” DeSantis said.
While DeSantis says he is currently focused on running for Florida governor this year, many of his press conferences and campaign events focus on the Biden administration.
He is also seen as a potential contender for the 2024 presidential election, though there have not been formal announcements.
DeSantis took jabs at current gas prices.
“People are chafing at the pump because you’ve had 40-50 percent increase in the price of gas — Well why is that? It’s because they shut down the Keystone pipeline. No oil from ANWR (Artic National Wildlife Refuge). Nothing from federal lands, so consequently, you’re importing more from countries like Russia.”
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix
Steve Robinson says
OK, let’s review for a moment. When it was announced that the wife of this detestable man was diagnosed with cancer, public officials, business leaders, journalists and pundits–Democrats, Republican and independents–quite appropriately and unanimously responded by wishing her well, issuing prayers for her recovery and strength for her and her entire family. So when a group of kids–kids, mind you–choose to wear a mask in public, perhaps mindful of an immune-compromised sibling at home, a parent receiving chemotherapy, or maybe their own illness or disability, this very same man insults and bullies them. Apparently, in his zeal to gain ground on Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, not to mention the impending race for governor, DeSantis has been inspired by the video of Trump getting cheers and laughter by mocking a journalist with a disability. With Trump as his role model, and a taste for bullying kids, it’s no wonder that this shameful man is expected to be re-elected.
S. Peters says
You are so right.
Isn’t that there freedom to wear if they want you talk about protecting freedom then tell them they don’t or the or redistricting and taking away ballot boxes or deprive schools children of funding well what have you done for the people to help the burdens of life oh wait you don’t care
This dirtbag goes ballistic over kids wearing masks!! Think of what those kids felt being humiliated in front of TV cameras! Can you imagine how he would respond to a REAL crisis?? He truly is an ignorant adolescent who is totally lost in his own universe. He has shown everyone that it’s his way or no way!! He punishes his own school districts from receiving much needed funds because they did what was right in protecting the students of their districts, but was something he did not warrant as a necessity. I’ll bet he and his family were vaccinated and he has the audacity to not answer when questioned. That alone makes the “light” go on to tell us he is truly a hypocrite!! He is a Trump wannabe. God help us all!!
Deborah Coffey says
“Covid theater.” How many people has DeSantis encouraged to go out and just get dead? How many are dead because he encouraged others to go out and spread their deadly virus? I think this governor should be arrested for manslaughter.
John Stove says
Deathsantis is a complete and total tool….this man cuts funding from schools who enforced a mask mandate and thru his policies enabled so many to infect the rest of us and now he is talking down to students who are exercising THEIR CHOICE AND FREEDOM to wear a mask and instead he gets all pissy about it. Suck it up snowflake…..
So its “Freedom” as long as we do it your way but if we dont agree with your moronic policies its “Covid Theater”?
Where have all the normal conservative Republicans gone?…..Deathsantis belongs in the dumpster along with Boebert and Greene…what an embarrassment
some guy says
Heckles???NO Just says the truth about it all.
S. Peters says
Sorry, I can’t agree with that statement. Hillsborough county had high Covid rate as per CDC
Deborah Coffey says
We are all very sorry that you can’t tell the difference. It’s why Florida is going all-out fascist…because again, millions living here can’t tell the difference between freedom and fascism.
Ben Hogarth says
Imagine a grown man (in high public office) finding it necessary to berate children for wearing protective face coverings because it’s a political inconvenience for his own political theater – all while projecting an accusation at those same kids that they were engaging in “political theater.”
News flash – children can’t run for public office. But you are Mr. Governor and the clock is ticking.
DeSantis is an asshole with a capital “A”. If he dropped dead tomorrow I would piss on his grave.
Bill C says
What a shallow political opportunist !
With all of his foaming at the mouth bluster about “personal choice” yada, yada, yada, it was so telling that his video recorded, on-air bullying of a group of high school students is evidence that his, and the GOP’s far right agenda is to TAKE AWAY any personal choice from Floridians. Whether it be a personal choice to wear a mask to protect oneself and others from infection, or personal choice to check out and read a book of one’s choice at the school library, or to have an abortion after being raped, or talking amongst others at school about your same-sex parents, or criticizing state health or political appointees for hiding relevant COVID-19 infection rates throughout the state, or even trying to bring attention to the HUGE problem of bullying in our schools, our elected governor, the bully-in-chief, says NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, to all of that and more, demands the FL legislature put an end to any personal choice that does not fit his ideology by passing crushing, no personal choice legislation to restrict our freedoms while laughingly calling the Democrats anti-freedom radicals! You can’t make this stuff up. When will people in this state WAKE UP and start electing rational people to statewide elected office so this state ceases being the laughing stock of the nation that keeps the late night comedians with a slew of “only in Florida” head shaking shamefulness?
Excellent synopsis! He is despicable and so are the people who would still vote for him. My faith is in those kids that are going to turn 18 and start voting soon.
Who votes for this pathetic excuse for a man?
My suggestion to the Dems, he gave ysll something to use against him please use this to your advantage please. Use this and other trash the Repubs, are throwing out there. We must vote him out if office. Please Dems let vote him out of office. Please do our future a favor and vote him out.
Michael Cocchiola says
DeSantis is truly a monster, undeserving of any future support or cooperation. Bullying high school students into taking off their masks without regard for why they’re wearing them is such a low point in Florida politics.
Go F*#k Yourself DeSantis and your poppa bear Trumputin.
Those Students may very well never Vote for any RepubliCon again. He used them, then chastised them for them expressing their freedom. It’s only “freedom” when it’s in a speech by him, which so many times equals “free-dumbs” coming out his posing pie hole. I said to everyone I knew back in 2018 don’t Vote for him because he was a poser and the people of Florida would be made a joke. Worse Governor I’ve ever had or seen, though I can think of a couple close behind him.
David Schaefer says
What an embarrassment to the people of Florida. I’m glad this went viral and on the national news. DeathSantis due us a big favor and ship yourself down to West Palm and kiss Trump’s ass you make a great pair……..
S. Peters says
DeSantis is an idiot! Per the CDC, Hillsborough County Fl is HIGH in Covid cases.
Desantis is only interested in being Florida governor as a stepping stone to run for president. He’s the only governor I’ve seen who NEVER misses an opportunity to talk about national issues in every press conference. If he’s really interested in taking care of Florida he hides it well.
To march up to a bunch of high school kids and jump them about their masks is just the mark of a very little man. You don’t like the masks, do your press conference without them standing behind you. After all, the only reason he jumped them was he didn’t like the optics of having a bunch of masked kids standing behind the “freedoms” governor. How low can you get? It’s a shame one or more of those kids didn’t fire right back at him about their “freedom” to wear the masks. What a great example of leadership for those kids. What an example for all of us. Florida deserves much better than this guy.
The Voice Of Reason says
What a complete asshole. putin got trump pregnant and out popped fidel deathsantis.
Donald J Trump says
MaybeI Lindsey Graham is right, people should take appropriate actions to protect and defend freedom from the idiots, despots, corrupt individuals both here and abroad
Jane Gentile-Youd says
For all his education and military service you would think he had a good grasp of human rights which define what a democratic form of government means: He has become a self centered arrogant tyrant and a member of the ‘me me me’ club.
It is a real shame because he is capable of being a leader for all the people but he has chosen instead to go the ‘my way or the highway’ extreme right un American egotistical , disrespectful and disgraceful path. He has become so full of himself he just might self explode one of these days ( and frankly, the sooner the better as far as I am concerned).
How would DeathSantis feel if an adult did that to his children? Oh, they attend private schools. He has no business being in office for Governor let alone wanting to be President of the USA. He is a little man wanting to be a dictator, come out of the closet and tell the world who you really are Ron the Con.
He wants Florida to go back to the white hood days and discriminate against blacks, browns and gay people, we get it and he isn’t hiding it.
Keep coming out of the closet Ron and show people more and more who you really are. Stop insulting little children that is as low as you can go, you wouldn’t want that done to your children so stop doing it to other parents children. Best way to describe you is pathetic.
DeSantis lives in his own isolated alternate fear, hate and anger filled “right winged extremist cult ” reality. . . right there with his horrific “puppet master” trump. Horrific demented, putin and his billionaire oligarchs also share an all too similar “Communist” alternate reality. Those monstrous men all share the same SICK narcissistic megalomaniac psychology. Make no mistake, they care NOTHING for other human beings.
Allowing ANY of them to continue to hold political power at any level endangers us all!