The Florida Republican Party once invited a lot of media to their big fundraiser “Sunshine Summit”.
But this year the list was far more exclusive, although insiders were granted access to one dinner.
DeSantis often lashes out at the media, but asks a variety of questions at press conferences.
HOLLYWOOD, FL— The Florida Republican Party and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign on Saturday denied scores of journalists credentials for a major fundraiser that usually involves wider media exposure.
Among the publications that were denied credentials for the “Sunshine Summit” were breakout speeches, debates and a banquet at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Politicallythe Palm Beach Postand the Miami Herald.
The Washington Post and the New York Times were also denied access, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
The Florida Republican Party invited few media outlets, including insiders, to cover the “victory dinner” in person. Among the other outlets in attendance were the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Florida Sun-Sentinel, and the Tampa Bay Times.
“I’ve been covering the RPOF annual meeting since 2012,” a reporter who wasn’t on the list told Insiders on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized by his employer to conduct interviews. “Never had a problem with the coverage. That’s not normal.”
The 2015 summit had 350 accredited media outlets. Donald Trump spoke as a presidential candidate that year.
The journalists who were given access to the “Victory Dinner” sat on stands at the back of the banquet hall where 1,500 people ate fish and steak.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was the star speaker, but guests also heard from Sen. Marco Rubio, who is up for re-election this year, and Lt. gov. Jeanette Nunez.
Conservative-leaning media outlets such as Florida Voices, Breitbart and the Washington Free Beacon were invited to cover other events throughout the day, according to a chart obtained by Politico and Posted on twitter. Insiders did not receive an invitation to the other parts of the summit, and only learned on Saturday that the option had been made available to select outlets.
Reporters, not authorized to cover the event from inside the hall, obtained footage and interviewed attendees outside the banquet hall.
The Sunshine Summit is a large gathering organized by the Florida Republican Party, but the Republican National Committee and the DeSantis campaign also helped organize the event.
When asked about the limited guest list, DeSantis campaign spokesman Dave Abrams brushed aside the complaints.
“It’s funny that the very reporters who weren’t interested in the Sunshine Summit were the same ones huddled in a corner across from the entrance hoping for a peek,” he said. “We don’t mind their tantrums — in fact, it confirms our suspicion that fair reporting was never a thought of theirs.”
A schedule of the event shows that the event featured speeches by conservative columnists, Republican candidates running for office, and congressional debates.
The Florida Republican Party did not livestream the event, but NBC 6 and other television networks were allowed to livestream the event if they chose to, said Lindsey Curnutte, spokeswoman for the DeSantis campaign. A Getty photographer was invited but did not attend, although a Bloomberg photographer was present.
The Florida GOP tweeted live some quotes from DeSantis from his speech.
Curnutte acknowledged that the media was “by invitation only” this year, but didn’t share any details about the screening process.
“Try to cry about it”
DeSantis often poses as an attack dog against the media at a time when polls show public trust in the press is low.
DeSantis has been particularly at odds with journalists over their scrutiny of his response to Florida’s COVID-19 pandemic, which often conflicts with federal health guidelines. On Saturday he boasted that he had “fought back to the media” and specifically taunted the “corporate media”.
But DeSantis’ actual press relationship is more nuanced. Its official press conferences are usually open to a variety of media. At most events, he answers numerous questions from reporters, often not pertinent to the intended purpose of the event, although occasionally he does not answer post-event questions.
By contrast, Saturday’s event was a political event — not an official event for the governor’s office.
“My message to her is try to cry about it. Then go kickboxing and have a margarita,” said DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said on Twitter, poking fun at a comment previously made by former White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “And write the same hit you wanted to write anyway.”
Pushaw frequently feuds with reporters on Twitter and posts screenshots of certain emailed media inquiries that the governor’s office receives.
The Tallahassee Democrat speculated that the DeSantis campaign might not want the governor’s event to overshadow another statewide event in Tampa, where former President Donald Trump was speaking at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit.
DeSantis spoke at the same summit Friday night, and there is growing speculation that he may decide to run for president in 2024 as Trump continues to consider the possibility of a White House nomination. Trump also often clashed with the press.
President Joe Biden’s White House has also faced complaints from reporters about transparency. In June, 68 White House reporters asked Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to stop pre-screening and routinely turning the same reporters away from public events held by the President.
“The White House’s continued inability to be open and transparent about the selection process for reporters to participate in its remarks undermines President Biden’s credibility when he says he is a defender of the First Amendment,” the letter said .
Jean-Pierre said at a White House briefing earlier this month that resuming events was a “priority”.
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