TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — A national Left-wing media outlet published audacious allegations regarding the widespread support of Governor Ron DeSantis without any concrete evidence of their validity. The Daily Beast’s Jake Lahut wrote an article that claimed members of the governor’s team pay social media influencers and utilize a “bot farm” in order to boost traffic for posts supporting DeSantis.
DAILY BEAST ALLEGATIONS
The article began by highlighting a video that went viral on Twitter of the governor greeting fans at the Jacksonville Jaguars playoff game in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead stadium on Saturday afternoon. Lahut used the tweet’s popularity to set the stage for his implication that it is one of many tweets artificially boosted by influencers paid by the governor’s team.
Lahut then painted an unflattering portrait of a handful of avid DeSantis supporters with a sizeable following, including pundits Jack Murphy, John Cardillo and David Reaboi, Herschel Walker’s son Christian and former Trump strategist Caleb Hull.
The article went on to quote an anonymous source who “heard promises” that Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary turned campaigner, was offering to pay influencers for positive tweets about the governor. Curiously, the source claimed that the DeSantis team had launched a “sprawling campaign” while simultaneously acknowledging that those targeted were not “mid-tier influencers or micro-influencers” and “not a lot of the big influencers.” Despite the disclaimers, Lahut argued that the micro-influencers comprised “DeSantis A-team.”
Lahut did not include any corroborating evidence – often referred to colloquially as “receipts” – from the sources, and acknowledged they didn’t know the alleged payments would work. The sources speculated that the micro-influencers may have been offered increased Twitter engagement or “gift bags during a trip to the governor’s mansion.” They also reported hearing of a “bot farm” utilized to boost their followers.
Lindsey Curnutte, the governor’s communications director who fielded Lahut’s inquiry, denied and mocked the reporter’s narrative as disconnected from reality, telling him: “Touch some grass, Jake.”
“Enthusiasm for Governor DeSantis is generated through his relentless work to keep Floridians free, not paying for retweets,” Curnutte told the Daily Beast. “We do not pay ‘influencers’ to tweet nor do we pay for ‘bot farms.’ People do that?”
Curnutte also shared 20 bullet points with Lahut as to why DeSantis has organically garnered popularity on social media. She referenced the governor’s historic, nearly 20-point election victory in November, adding that he won 62 of the state’s 67 counties and claimed Hispanic voters by 60 percent, independent voters by 18 percent and female voters by 9 percent.
Curnutte went so far as to suggest the Daily Beast was hoping to leverage the governor’s popularity to garner more web traffic of Lahut’s article, tweeting: “Governor @RonDeSantisFL has millions of supporters and yes, many of them are on social media. This isn’t news. Clickbait websites like the Daily Beast know this, and that’s exactly why they attempt to smear his name to drive clicks.”
Pushaw denied the allegations and pointed out that Lahut failed to supply any hard evidence to support claims from the anonymous sources, such as screenshots of direct messages or texts. She also called out Daily Beast Washington Bureau Chief Matt Fuller in a tweet, writing: “How can you, as his editor, green light a ‘report’ that relies solely on ‘anonymous sources’? Zero evidence. Zero receipts. Zero people even making these allegations on the record. Is this journalism?”
DESANTIS SUPPORTERS RESPOND
Nationally syndicated radio show host Dana Loesch with 1.2 million Twitter followers scoffed at the premise, writing: “It's bizarre to me that the take is because people are outspoken in support of DeSantis's FL initiatives that it must mean they were ‘recruited’ by @ChristinaPushaw. Just MAYBE people like acknowledging good leadership.”
Independent journalist Jordan Schachtel mocked the reporting, tweeting: “I love the sourcing: ‘A friend of mine in Miami told me Christina was recruiting people’ 😂 Sounds legit!”
Several influencers who are vocal supporters of the governor chimed in with tongue-in-cheek gripes about how they wish they had gotten paid for their support. One DeSantis supporter with 10,000 Twitter followers wrote: “I sometimes get called part of the 'army' These people really don't understand the amount of loyalty saving your job and life that you love buys. No further payment will ever be necessary.”
One popular blogger suggested that DeSantis’ opponents were the ones guilty of dishonest social media engagement, tweeting: “I appreciate @JakeLahut writing this piece b/c it's an insightful window of projection. It basically tells you ‘well, I know for certain that the left uses bot farms to boost follower counts for our preferred influencers, so these guys probably do too’”