AP urges DeSantis to end bullying aimed at reporter

Aug 20, 2021, 11:20 AM | Updated: Aug 21, 2021, 8:03 am
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site Wednesday, Aug. 1...

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. The site at C. B. Smith Park will offer monoclonal antibody treatment sold by Regeneron to people who have tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

(AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

NEW YORK (AP) — Twitter suspended the account of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary for violating rules on “abusive behavior” after The Associated Press said her conduct led to a reporter receiving threats and other online abuse.

The DeSantis aide, Christina Pushaw, saw her account locked for 12 hours, a Twitter spokeswoman said. She won’t be able to tweet, although others can retweet or “like” her messages.

Earlier Friday, incoming AP CEO Daisy Veerasingham wrote to DeSantis, asking him to end Pushaw’s “harassing behavior.” AP is seeking to fight online bullying against journalists, a growing trend that is often triggered by public figures.

“You will ban the press secretary of a democratically-elected official while allowing the Taliban to live tweet their conquest of Afghanistan?” Pushaw said. She said those who “challenge false narratives are often silenced by corporate media and Big Tech collusion.”

Pushaw denied trying to direct the governor’s followers to target AP’s reporter despite retweeting his article and writing “drag them” in a now-deleted post.

She had objected to Tuesday’s story by AP’s Tallahassee, Florida-based reporter Brendan Farrington, which pointed out that one of DeSantis’ multimillion-dollar donors invests in a company making the COVID-19 treatment drug Regeneron. DeSantis has been touting the monoclonal antibody treatment throughout the state.

In another tweet, she wrote that if Farrington didn’t change the story, she would “put you on blast.” She also retweeted a message that said “Light. Them. Up.” in reference to the AP.

Early Wednesday, Farrington tweeted that he had received online threats and hate messages about the story. “For your sake, I hope government doesn’t threaten your safety. I’ll be fine, I hope. Freedom. Just please don’t kill me.”

Farrington declined to be interviewed for this story.

Brian Carovillano, AP’s vice president and managing editor, said Pushaw’s tweets were particularly egregious because she’s a public servant whose job it is to work with the press.

“There’s pushback, which we fully accept and is a regular facet of being a political reporter or any kind of reporter, and there’s harassment,” Carovillano said. “This is not pushback, it’s harassment. It’s bullying. It’s calling out the trolls at somebody who is just doing his job and it’s putting him and his family at risk.”

Pushaw said her “drag them” comment was social media slang and was not meant as a violent threat. She said she deleted it because she didn’t want it to be misinterpreted.

“As soon as Farrington told me he received threats, I tweeted that nobody should be threatening anyone, that is completely unacceptable,” she said. “I also urged him to report any threats to police.”

Viktorya Vilk, program director for digital safety and free expression at PEN America, said the Urban Dictionary defines “drag them” as to roast (make fun of/mock) someone very hard. Its use seems to imply or encourage people to go on the attack, in a way that’s just shy of being direct, Vilk said.

Pushaw believes AP’s story was unfair and endangers Florida residents.

“The backlash he is receiving is a direct result of his and AP’s decision to cherry pick facts to prop up a false narrative, which sadly puts the lives of your readers at risk,” she said. “If people falsely believe Regeneron — a clinically proven lifesaving treatment — is part of a corruption scheme, they will hesitate to get it, and this causes harm.”

The AP said it stands by its story.

This past spring, DeSantis supporters objected to a “60 Minutes” story that pointed out DeSantis had received a $100,000 donation from the supermarket chain Publix, which the state was working with to distribute vaccine.

In her letter, Veerasingham asked DeSantis to assure the people of Florida “that there is no place” for Pushaw’s behavior in government. Veerasingham, AP’s vice president and chief operating officer, will become AP’s CEO in January.

Also this past spring, AP said it would study ways to more aggressively fight online harassment of journalists. This came after several AP reporters expressed concern in internal meetings about whether the organization would have its back if they came under online attack.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Highway BR-163 stretches between the Tapajos National Forest, left, and a soy field in Belte...
Associated Press

Brazil authorities probe Amazon ties to capital attacks

SAO PAULO (AP) — On the edge of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, the Rovaris family is a symbol of a pioneering success story. The family arrived in the state of Mato Grosso in the 1970s as part of a wave of agricultural expansion promoted by the country’s then-military dictatorship. In a short span, the Rovaris clan […]
8 hours ago
A hiring sign is displayed outside of a restaurant in Arlington Heights, Ill., Monday, Jan. 30, 202...
Associated Press

U.S. job openings rise in December to 11 million

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. job openings rose to 11 million in December, a sign the American labor market remains hot and a blow to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to cool it off. The Labor Department said Wednesday that openings were up from 10.4 million in November. Economists had expected job openings to drop slightly in […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to the crowd during a welcome ceremony in Sara...
Associated Press

Erdogan: Sweden can’t join NATO if Quran-burning is allowed

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed Wednesday that Turkey won’t allow Sweden to join the NATO military alliance as long as the Scandinavian country permits protests desecrating Islam’s holy book to take place. Turkey, which has been holding off approving Sweden and Finland’s membership in the Western military alliance, has been […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Spain’s PM heads to Morocco to reap benefits of mended ties

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez travels to Rabat on Wednesday along with 12 ministers for a two-day meet with Moroccan government officials, as part of the European country’s strategy to improve historically complex relations with its neighbor across the Strait of Gibraltar. The visit comes 10 months after Sánchez went to […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Government reports 1 case of mad cow disease on Dutch farm

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A cow that died recently on a Dutch farm has tested positive for mad cow disease, the government announced Wednesday, in a rare case of the cattle illness that can cause a fatal brain disease in people who eat tainted beef. The farm where the cow died has been sealed […]
8 hours ago
A golden lion tamarin is handled by researchers after it was vaccinated against yellow fever in a l...
Associated Press

Race to vaccinate rare wild monkeys gives hope for survival

SILVA JARDIM, Brazil (AP) — In a small lab nestled in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, researchers with gloved hands and masked faces cradle four tiny golden monkeys so a veterinarian can delicately slide a needle under the thin skin of each sedated animal’s belly. The next morning, biologist Andréia Martins brings them to the precise spot […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
AP urges DeSantis to end bullying aimed at reporter