Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) refused to give his thoughts when asked Saturday about the death of his former colleague, Rep. John Lewis — claiming the question was off-topic even though he has previously used his COVID-19 press conferences to discuss bringing professional sports to Florida.
The reporter in St. Augustine began her question: “We saw last night Congressman John Lewis passed away. He’s a civil rights icon. You know, this is happening amidst heated conversation in this country about race, monuments, flags.”
She continued to explain the controversy about a Confederate memorial that has been a fixture in St. Augustine’s historic central plaza for 140 years. (The city commission there voted 3-2 last month to remove it.)
Before the reporter could finish her question, DeSantis interrupted the reporter to explain the question was off topic.
“All right, yeah,” he said. “I appreciate the question, but we’re trying to focus on the coronavirus. I appreciate it, but I’m going to let someone ask about — do you have a question about the topic at hand?”
“In the past, however, the governor has gone off-topic at coronavirus-themed news conferences, which he holds several times per week,” notes the Tampa Bay Times. “On May 13, in response to a reporter’s question during a news conference on COVID-19 and long-term facilities, DeSantis said he’d welcome professional sports to Florida. The reporter’s question also did not distract from any coronavirus news, because DeSantis said little that was new Saturday. He reiterated talking points about how Florida has stabilized in its positive rate of cases and about how Floridians shouldn’t fear the virus so much that they refuse to seek medical treatment.”
The Times adds: “Even if the positive rate of cases has stabilized, as DeSantis contended, it remains north of 10 percent across the state, a threshold which experts say suggests the virus is still spreading. On Friday, the state recorded an additional 10,328 new cases, 90 new deaths and a positive rate of about 12 percent positive rate statewide.”
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 18, 2020
DeSantis, who served with Lewis in Congress for three terms, from 2013 to 2018, had not offered a tribute to Lewis as of 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, the conservative Republican congressman, lauded Lewis, who was brutally beaten by police and arrested numerous times in the 1960s while advocating for equal rights under the law.
“We are surely a stronger people in a better, more just nation because we had the blessing to call John Lewis our fellow American,” Gaetz tweeted.