Ron DeSantis kept quiet while an ally made a false claim about COVID-19 vaccines: 'Get the facts'
Florida governor Ron DeSantis. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Although far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has drawn a great deal of criticism from health experts for downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in his state, none of that criticism has inspired him to change course. And when a press conference on vaccines was held this week, DeSantis failed to push back against false claims promoted by an anti-vaxxer.

The anti-vaxxer, according to Washington Post reporter Timothy Bella, was Darris Friend, a 22-year-old employee of Gainesville, Florida's city government. Friend is a plaintiff in a right-wing lawsuit challenging Gainesville's requirement that employees get a COVID-19 vaccine.

At the press conference, Friend claimed, "The vaccine changes your RNA; so for me, that's a problem. We don't want to have the vaccine. It's about our freedom and liberty."

DeSantis, according to Bella, "appeared uncomfortable" when Friend made that false claim but didn't correct him.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, however, gave Friend a fact-check and tweeted.

Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis, defended the Florida governor — telling the Washington Post, "The governor has never said the vaccine changes your RNA, and nobody who has seen his 50+ public appearances promoting vaccination throughout Florida this year would think that is the governor's position. The speaker whose remarks included that comment was at the news conference in his capacity as a member of a lawsuit against the city government's extreme overreach."

While it's true that DeSantis himself didn't claim that the COVID-19 vaccines can change one's RNA during the press conference, he stood by silently while someone he was promoting did make that false claim.

Bella reports, "The event is the latest escalation in Republican leaders' opposition to public health mandates. DeSantis, who has clashed with local leaders and educators over masks in schools, is among a group of Republican governors denouncing or vowing action against President Biden's sweeping order requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be vaccinated or to be regularly tested for the coronavirus. The governor advocated for the workers who are suing the City of Gainesville and face termination if they are not vaccinated. The city has given employees until September 30 to get vaccinated."