Governor Ron DeSantis is now fundraising off a video showing him barking at Florida students for having the gall to wear a mask near him during a pandemic.
“Masks are political theater,” DeSantis wrote in an email before complaining that “leftist propagandists in our media … called me a ‘bully’ for allowing children to breathe fresh air.”
Inbox: DeSantis now fundraising off his interaction with college students yesterday telling them to take off their masks pic.twitter.com/F5lyo5BQrZ
— Nick Corasaniti (@NYTnickc) March 3, 2022
The fundraising push comes a day after DeSantis lashed out at students lined up behind a podium at an event about cyber security education in schools. “You do not have to wear those masks,” he snapped at the students. “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.”
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
Some of the students seen in the video removed their masks, and some chose to keep theirs on. Seven of the children at the speech were from Middleton High School in Tampa, the Hillsborough School District told WFLA.
The superintendent of Hillsborough School District commended the students for their behavior at the speech. “We are excited our students from Middleton High School were highlighted as part of the statewide focus around cyber security education,” Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis told the station. “As always, our students should be valued and celebrated. It is a student and parents’ choice to protect their health in a way they feel most appropriate. We are proud of the manner in which our students represented themselves and our school district.”
The father of one of the students, a high school freshman who refused to remove his mask, said he would tell DeSantis “to stop bullying kids.” A student who did remove his mask told WFLA he felt pressure from the governor to do so. “It was more of pressure of an adult figure asking me to do something and it’s just like, all right,” Eric Marshall, a senior at Middleton High School, said.
"I took mine off."
"Did you feel pressure by the governor to do that?"
This @HillsboroughSch senior's mom says she's very upset and it was "shocking" for Gov. DeSantis to ask her son & the other high school students to take off their masks. https://t.co/JNYeA9dYci pic.twitter.com/W6WZbAOKh8
— Justin Schecker (@WFLAJustin) March 3, 2022
The speech took place at the University of South Florida. According to the university’s spring 2022 Covid-19 protocols, “USF expects masks to be worn when indoors, especially in a crowded setting.” But, it adds, “Some people will choose to wear masks, others will not. Each individual’s decision should be respected.”
DeSantis clearly did not seem to have much respect for the students who decided to wear masks. He didn’t acknowledge them when he left the podium.
And when he was done with the presser after yelling at the students, he walks right out and ignores them. Doesn’t even look at them. I will just tell you what many REPUBLICANS in the FL state govt have told me -to know him is to detest him. Just a jerk. pic.twitter.com/c6txCK9MOT
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) March 2, 2022
The governor went on to make more Covid-related comments later at the event, snidely answering a reporter’s question asking if he agreed with anything in Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. “I agree, if you think about what they’ve done, Fauci is in the witness protection program now,” DeSantis said after quipping that he fell asleep during the speech. “If you listened to them, they never supported these [Covid] policies [in Florida] that were so destructive. Now it’s like they all want to be like Florida all of a sudden, and nothing has changed.”
DeSantis is apparently referring to recent CDC guidance relaxing masking recommendations, but the change has come only as cases have declined following the Omicron surge. Fauci is still making public appearances, too. He participated in a press conference on Wednesday where he said the U.S. is moving “in the right direction” in fighting the virus.
Fauci also responded to new Covid recommendations made last week by DeSantis and Florida’s surgeon general in a video titled “Buck the CDC” in which they advised businesses not require employee masking and advocated “off-label” use of unproven drugs to treat cases of Covid-19. “I’m particularly concerned about the recommendation for using drugs that have been proven to not be effective at all,” Fauci said, adding that the decision to ignore CDC guidance is “ill-advised.”
This post has been updated.