NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press called on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to end “harassing behavior” by one of his press aides against an AP reporter who received threats and other online abuse.
Incoming AP CEO Daisy Veerasingham sent a letter Friday to DeSantis protesting tweets by press secretary Christina Pushaw directed at a Tallahassee, Florida-based reporter in response to a story he wrote pointing out one of DeSantis’ multi-million 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 a since-deleted tweet, Pushaw retweeted the article with the message “drag them,” which led to abusive messages being sent to him.
“Another one of her tweets threatened that if the journalist did not change the story to her liking, she would ‘put you on blast.’ She gave a deadline to meet her demand,” the letter reads. “She also retweeted someone’s call to ‘Light. Them. Up,’ referring to the AP. After activating the mob, she then deleted some of the tweets. But their effect cannot be erased. And, even days later, she continued to issue threatening and insulting tweets.”
DeSantis should “assure the people of Florida that there is no place” for such behavior in their government, Veerasingham, AP’s vice president and chief operating officer, wrote. She will become AP’s CEO in January.
“While we can disagree about stories, it is unacceptable and dangerous for a public official to encourage the systemic bullying of journalists,” Veerasingham wrote.
Pushaw said she did not mean her “drag them” comment to be taken as a threat, and she deleted it because she realized not everyone would know what it means.
In its letter, the AP referred to the behavior as what “the United States government routinely criticizes in other nations.”
“This is not about one story, it is about harassing behavior from a public official that is unacceptable in any circumstance,” it said. “We call on you to eliminate this attack strategy from your press office, and assure the people of Florida that there is no place for it in their state government.”