Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has a secret "army" of promoters on social media who try to build his clout, according to a new Daily Beast profile on Wednesday — but many of them are less than reputable, and causing more headaches for the governor's brand and image.
"According to five Republicans familiar with the discussions, the governor’s top lieutenants have quietly recruited a network of conservative social media influencers as part of a broader attempt to circumvent the mainstream press and appeal directly to GOP primary voters nationwide," reported Jake Lahut. Among them are, "Jack Murphy, a podcast host and self-described 'alpha-male giga chad' involved in a quasi-professional cuckolding porn scandal. John Cardillo, a former Newsmax TV host and unregistered arms dealer who allegedly stiffed the Ukrainian government for $200,000 worth of body armor plates. Christian Walker, Herschel Walker’s right-wing influencer son who helped tank his father’s Senate campaign. David Reaboi, a Hungary-loving and Qatar-hating bodybuilder with longstanding ties to John Bolton."
Also on the list is Caleb Hull, a former digital strategist for Trump who has repeatedly used the N-word and posted homophobic and Islamophobic screeds from a secret Twitter account.
"The effort has picked up steam ever since Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ perennially online rapid response director, moved from the governor’s office to his campaign in August of last year," said the report. "Pushaw, who has deep connections in right-wing media, has been reaching out — either in person or through intermediaries — to recruit conservative influencers, promising to boost their follower count and engagement with the help of an alleged 'bot farm,' according to three Republican influencers who received the pitch.
One of the Republicans involved told the Beast, “I didn’t realize I was being used ... A friend of mine in Miami told me Christina was recruiting people to, I guess, promote DeSantis on social media. They started doing a sprawling influencer campaign.”
DeSantis has been widely speculated as a potential challenger to former President Donald Trump for the 2024 nomination, although he has not yet declared a run. In the past several weeks, some polls have suggested DeSantis edging out Trump with Republican voters, although more recent polls have suggested Trump has regained the lead.