Earlier this week, we reported on an Associated Press hit piece on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and how it fell apart after it had been conclusively shown by multiple people including other reporters and DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw that the piece’s central premise – that DeSantis was engaging in the equivalent of “pay to play” with his promotion of a Regeneron COVID-19 antibody treatment – was deeply flawed and likely intentionally misleading.
Further, as my colleague Bonchie pointed out, not only has the treatment – which has also been touted by the Biden administration – been shown to work in helping to prevent hospitalization for some COVID patients, but “the [DeSantis] donor is a hedge fund manager that manages almost $40 billion in assets. The company in question makes up a tiny fraction of the total investments to the point where it’s irrelevant. In fact, they aren’t even really investments.”
Simply put, it was incredibly irresponsible not to mention dangerous from a public health perspective for Associated Press reporter Brendan Farrington to frame the story in the manner he did, which could have led to the assumption by some that there was no real benefit to the antibody treatment outside of what DeSantis and his donor could supposedly get out of promoting it.
In response to the criticism he received, instead of fixing the headline – which was the biggest issue considering sometimes headlines are all some people read – Farrington, whose Twitter page is now locked down, instead alleged he was getting death threats from DeSantis supporters and that the reason was that Pushaw herself had supposedly threatened him (we checked her Twitter timeline, and concluded his allegation was false) by merely telling him that if he didn’t fix the headline she’d put him “on blast.”
Others in the media rushed to his defense, more or less taking the “how dare you question what we report” approach, which needless to say was not a good look in this day and age were very few people trust the press anymore.
In an update to all the drama surrounding this story, the Associated Press’ Executive VP and COO Daisy Veerasingham officially responded today to what happened not by admitting the news organization messed up with the headline and then correcting it, but instead by writing a letter to Gov. DeSantis where they scolded Pushaw for staying laser-focused on getting Farrington to correct the headline via putting public pressure on him by way of the Twitter machine:
The @AssociatedPress is writing @GovRonDeSantis today re: his press secretary, @ChristinaPushaw, and her "direct effort to activate an online mob to attack" a @FLPressCorps reporter. "We call on you to eliminate this attack strategy from your press office," the AP's exec VP asks. pic.twitter.com/ghyK7Lwy2K
— Troy Kinsey (@TroyKinsey) August 20, 2021
Pushaw responded accordingly:
The only words that threatened public health and safety were the words in the AP hit piece, specifically the headline. https://t.co/mWMi8oCOcy
— Christina Pushaw (@ChristinaPushaw) August 20, 2021
As I wrote yesterday, if random Twitter users did threaten Farrington with bodily harm or death, it is absolutely unacceptable and he should present the tweets to local law enforcement to investigate. But people who push back on a reporter by simply pointing out the facts are not “harassing” nor “threatening” members of the mainstream media.
To repeat for the record, journalists should not consider themselves above criticism, beyond reproach. The last four years+ alone have been littered with one fake news report after another. Not only has it destroyed the trust in the media, but millions of people have been misinformed, their opinions skewed, by bad reporting.
While threats against reporters are not a good thing, correcting the record absolutely is and people should continue to do so and not be intimidated into backing down when others in the profession double down instead of doing the right thing and simply admitting they were wrong.