The Miami Herald Embarrasses Itself yet Again With Another Weak Attack on Ron DeSantis

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

It becomes apparent the press affliction has mutated to a Desantis Derangement Syndrome.

A South Florida newspaper, and clear opponent of Governor Ron DeSantis, The Miami Herald has continued in its efforts to damage the image of the governor in its latest hit piece. This time the paper took a look at a recent assessment made on the Florida Health Department. The media darling and fully discredited whistleblower, Rebekah Jones, gave a response to Politico’s Gary Fineout detailing some of DeSantis’ schedule, asking rhetorically if the governor was going to be challenged about the state’s supposed problems in its Covid database.

Is he going to take questions about how (The Florida Health Department) faced losing accreditation for how they handled COVID-19 data? 

What the desperate Jones was referencing was a recent article in The Herald where they covered the FHD having a recent assessment performed on it by an accreditation board. Jones implies, based on the slanted coverage in the paper, that the FHD was at risk of losing its accreditation over numerous flaws found supposedly in its operational framework. One small problem; Jones, and the paper, are undermined in their accusations by the facts contained therein.

In my Townhall column, Riffed From The Headlines, I have a number of categories that collate the various methods the press uses in their crafting and molding of narratives. Here what we see is an example of one called The Presentation Paradox, where an outlet presents a version of a news story via the headline and body of the piece, only to have the actual facts come out deep in the article with the hopes of it being overlooked.

This is the old “buried lede” tactic but metastasized for the digital age. The hope is that the headline and/or early content will be passed around social media and create a reaction in opposition to the actual facts. The outlets often later alter the headline or content to comport to the facts better, for the permanent record, with these revisions always getting less attention. The Herald is following that playbook in this piece.

The article begins with a story of a father who needed information on school infection rates, in order to make an informed decision about his child returning to classrooms when schools were reopening last fall. He had a difficult time navigating the database and getting the pertinent data he was seeking out. This is surely a problem for parents, and there is no implication the state health data was completely navigable and available. But what The Herald presents is a case where it essentially declares the news outlet knows better than the accreditation board what the judgment on FHD should have been.

The headline, and the body of the piece, dismissively states the FHD only received a slap on the wrist and should have basically had its accreditation stripped. This is the assessment by the reporters, despite providing evidence that the board did not find violations rising to that level.On May 17, the accreditation board issued its gentlest reprimand, saying that while the health department was generally in line with accreditation standards, it should have done a better job sharing the data it had with the public.” 

The article also referenced Rebekah Jones and her claims, but tellingly there is zero mention made of how thoroughly discredited she has become over the past year. It says everything about the vacancy of this piece that her accusations are given oxygen but there is zero mention made of her utter lack of evidence, her proven contradictory claims, and her being fully exposed as an unreliable source on the matter.

Next, the paper reached out to an authoritative voice to get some key quotes on the matter. 

Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the action from the board amounted to what is essentially a slap on the wrist, “but it’s not necessarily an inconsequential slap on the wrist. If an accredited health department is told by an accreditation board that they need to do something better, then they’re going to do that, they’re going to pay attention to that, because the next step would be probation or losing accreditation, and that doesn’t look good,” Toner said.”

Except, even as the paper positions this as a violation, the accreditation board stated this effort was in fact taking place. Their findings noted there was improvement in the reporting of the school data taking place over the course of the investigation; in other words, there is no reason to suggest there would be a risk of losing that accreditation.

What is also revealing here is that Toner, while knowledgeable, is also someone on the outside commenting on possible outcomes. The people who conducted the investigation into FHD are given far less attention by the writers. But what did those people say about the investigation? (Emphasis added.)

The president of the accreditation board, Paul Kuehnert, who oversaw the investigation, said the board took the complaint (by Jones) “very seriously” and emphasized that while there was nothing concerning about the department’s data collection or analysis there was room for improvement in public communications. “Based on what we have seen with Florida, the professionals at the Department of Health are doing a really excellent job,” Kuehnert said.

So in a lengthy article that insinuates the Florida Health Department was on the verge of being discredited, and that it received an unjustly light reprimand, the people who actually conducted the investigation actually raved about the performance. This comprises the entirety of the comments by the president of the board, leader of the people who actually conducted the six-month investigation on which this entire article is based upon. The discredited Rebekah Jones is given just as much coverage. And then to undermine the findings further, the paper closes out with the comment of the disgruntled parent, who suggests more of a punishment should have been levied.

It speaks to everything when a news outlet sets out to write specifically about the investigation into the State Health Department and they give scant coverage to the people who conducted the research. All the people who have complaints are given full access, but the actual results are nestled at the bottom of the article, and the actual findings are dismissed with an emphasis instead placed on opinions of those from the outside. 

This is nothing more than a shallow hit piece, and it is typical of the media coverage we have seen in this state. The Herald gives a report here that is on par with the embarrassingly bad 60 Minutes hit piece from a month ago.