Jen Psaki smacks down Ron DeSantis’ mask excuses as Florida hospitals fill with COVID patients

Press Secretary Jen Psaki answers questions from members of the press Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chandler West)
Press Secretary Jen Psaki answers questions from members of the press Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chandler West)Photo: White House

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki isn’t having complaints from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who called President Joe Biden a “power hungry tyrant” because he’s trying to get states to take measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus as new infections increase, largely among the unvaccinated.

DeSantis is angry with the White House because his state is in dire straits, in part due to his own actions. Florida hospitals are reportedly being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, who are almost all unvaccinated and half are under the age of 55.

Related: Florida celebrates first day of Pride Month with law attacking trans kids’ rights

But instead of trying to stop that, DeSantis signed an executive order to fight mask mandates last week, banning schools from forcing anyone – even parents – to wear a mask.

“I want to see my kids smiling,” DeSantis said this past Friday. “I want them having fun.”

That “fun” turned deadly as over 20% of hospitalizations nationwide are in just one state: Florida.

DeSantis snapped this week when asked by a reporter about the massive hospitalizations and deaths happening under his watch.

“You know, I’m just sick of this judge – I’m sick of the judgment, the judgmental stuff on some of this stuff, nobody’s trying to… get ill here, okay,” he said. “Joe Biden has taken to himself to try to single out Florida over COVID.”

Psaki wasn’t having the governor’s whining and responded with facts on Twitter.

“Twenty-three percent of new COVID hospitalizations in the U.S. are in Florida, and their hospitals are being overwhelmed again,” Psaki said. “We are doing everything we can to help the people of FL, and they’re stepping up by getting vaccinated – we hope @GovRonDeSantis joins us in this fight.”

DeSantis also called Biden a “power hungry tyrant” in a fundraising email. ABC News reporter Stephanie Ramos brought up the statement at the White House Press Briefing earlier today, asking Psaki if Biden is going to call DeSantis to “talk this over.”

“First, from day one, we’ve approached this not as a political issue, but as a public health issue,” Psaki said to acknowledge that there’s more at stake here than the governor’s hurt feelings.

“It is factual and it is a fact and data that you all are aware of that 25% of hospitalizations in the country are in Florida,” Psaki responded.

“It is also a fact that the governor has taken steps that are counter to public health recommendations,” Psaki continued. “So we’re here to state the facts. Frankly, our view is that this is too serious, deadly serious to be doing partisan name-calling. That’s what we’re not doing here, we’re focused on providing public health data information to the people of Florida, to make sure they understand what steps they should be taking, even if those are not steps taken at the top of the leadership in that state.”

DeSantis has a history of anti-LGBTQ actions, including signing an anti-transgender law earlier this year. DeSantis signed it on June 1, the start of Pride Month.

Later that month, he slashed funding for LGBTQ health initiatives through a line-item veto, including services for the survivors of the Pulse shooting.

The state of California banned state-funded travel to Florida later in June due to its anti-LGBTQ laws.

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