HIALEAH GARDENS, FLORIDA — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis held a roundtable to discuss the damaging impacts of defamation by the legacy media. The panel included victims of media defamation, legal experts, and a member of the media who witnessed defamatory practices in his workplace.
The governor said he hopes the legislature will consider taking action during the upcoming regular Legislative Session to protect Floridians. DeSantis said repercussions from media defamation might be life-altering for people who do not have the means or the platform to defend themselves.
“We’ve seen over the last generation legacy media outlets increasingly divorce themselves from the truth and instead try to elevate preferred narratives and partisan activism over reporting the facts,” said DeSantis. “When the media attacks me, I have a platform to fight back. When they attack everyday citizens, these individuals don’t have the adequate resources to fight back. In Florida, we want to stand up for the little guy against these massive media conglomerates.”
According to legal experts at the roundtable, current Florida law does not provide adequate protection for everyday Floridians who have been victims of defamatory or libelous speech by news organizations.
The governor said the “doctrine” of the current media landscape “has had really profound effects on society.” Those who are considering running for public office might think twice because “the media is going to find a way to smear you,” according to DeSantis.
Nick Sandmann, former Covington Catholic High School Student from Kentucky, participated in the March for Life when he was 16. He and his friends were harassed, leading to a confrontation that went viral, causing media outlets to publicly criticize him based on his appearance without understanding the full context of the video clip.
“In my case, I didn’t have any reputation to ruin. I didn’t have any kind of career,” said Nick Sandmann. “What you got was a rush to judgment where they took a 60-second clip from Twitter. They wanted to be the first one with the story. They predetermined what the rest of my future was going to look like.”
Dennis O’Connor, former Secretary of the Board of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, was a victim of deceptive editing in a gun violence documentary. Eventually, the reporter had to issue a public apology to the group.
“Too many people believed what they actually saw on TV,” said O’Connor. “Even when the truth came out, we took a lot of hits. There has to be a return to ethics and real journalism.”
Devin “Velvel” Freedman, a founding partner of the law firm Freedman, Normand, Friedland, LLP, is an attorney representing Zachary Young. A former U.S. government operative, Young was accused by CNN of selling black market evacuations out of Afghanistan during the disastrous U.S. withdrawal from the country.
“You don’t get to destroy someone’s life, reputation, and then issue a four second apology and it’s over,” said Freedman. “When you work in this field, you might think you’re in an echo chamber, but it’s great to see that folks like Governor DeSantis are paying attention to this real issue.”
PUSHING A NARRATIVE
Michael Moynihan, co-host of the Fifth Column Podcast and a former national correspondent for Vice News, shared his experience working at The Daily Beast and Newsweek. He was also a resident fellow of the free-market think tank Timbro in Sweden, where he lived and wrote articles about politics in the country, contributing to Swedish-language publications.
“I think that we have to start by focusing on how screwed up the business model of the media is,” said Moynihan. “When I started in media, the internet was a thing, but it wasn’t what drove the news cycle. Media bias is a lot worse because of the repetitiveness and the narrative – push the narrative and facts be damned.”
Watch more from the roundtable here.