Private bill signings likely show DeSantis’ media strategy

Apr 14, 2023, 1:01 PM

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a restrictive abortion bill at an evangelical church before enthusiastic supporters in one of Florida’s largest media markets.

But that was last year, when DeSantis banned abortions after 15 weeks.

This year DeSantis signed an even more restrictive bill, banning abortion after six weeks, in the privacy of his office on Thursday just before midnight. There was no throng of supporters to celebrate, no packs of reporters throwing out scores of questions and documenting the moment and no television cameras — and Tallahassee is one of the state’s smallest media markets.

It’s at least the third major piece of conservative legislation the prospective presidential candidate has signed in private this year with no advance media notice, following bills to allow legal gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit and to expand Florida’s school voucher program.

Doing so might reflect more his attitude toward mainstream media rather than a fear of signing controversial bills in public.

Where, when and how DeSantis signs a bill makes no difference on how new laws will affect Floridians. Bill-signing ceremonies are primarily about bringing awareness to new laws and giving governors attention. And issues like guns, school vouchers and abortion are going to receive massive media attention whether there’s a ceremony or not.

His decision to sign legislation privately frustrates reporters and provides fodder for Democrats, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. DeSantis has blown up the traditional playbook on media relations to the point where he freely states he doesn’t need or care about mainstream media, which he calls corporate or legacy media.

“Legacy media, anything that I do, immediately they’re going to react against,” DeSantis said at Hillsdale College in Michigan last week. “A lot of Republicans, they get worried about being attacked by the media, they worry about getting smeared, it’s not anything good. I don’t read any of it, so I don’t really care. “

He regularly mentions that he needed a recount to win his first term and then won reelection by a larger amount than any other Florida Republican governor despite his rocky relationship with the media.

“The idea that I could go from 32,000 votes to 1.5 million votes having more negative media attacking me than any other governor, I would say, probably, in modern American history, that should show you that there are people out there — voters — they see all through the smoke and they’re just looking for some truth in a very convoluted, strange time,” DeSantis said.

The governor’s communications office didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment on the private bill signings.

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Private bill signings likely show DeSantis’ media strategy