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How Ron DeSantis collaborated with rightwing media to deceptively promote the Don’t Say Gay law

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)Photo: Shutterstock

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) office coordinated directly with Chaya Raichik, who goes by LibsofTikTok on social media, and other right-wing media outlets to push disinformation defending his signing of the now-infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill in late March, a Daily Dot investigative report has found.

Screenshots of Raichik’s March 8 chat with a person in DeSantis’ office (most likely his then-press secretary Christina Pushaw) showed Raichik accusing the national childcare chain KinderCare of offering an “LGBTQ curriculum.”

“They have branches in Florida,” Raichik wrote. “This is illegal in Florida.”

The staffer who responded said that, because DeSantis hadn’t yet signed the bill into law yet, such a curriculum wouldn’t technically be illegal until the law went into effect in July.

“But thank you for pointing this out,” DeSantis’ aide added. “I already sent it to our deputy chief of staff in charge of education. And he is awesome he cares so much about safeguarding kids.”

The aide then sent Raichik some of her own tweets defending the law.

The chats are notable because they show DeSantis’ willingness to collaborate with a far-right social media influencer whose tweets accusing LGBTQ-inclusive educators and medical professionals of “grooming” children for sexual abuse have led to bombing and death threats.

“Raichik insists she merely amplifies content and is blameless for the bomb and death threats, violence, and trolling,” The Daily Dot noted.

Pushaw herself has said earlier this year on Twitter that anyone who opposes the “Don’t Say Gay” law is a pedophile. DeSantis reportedly loved this particular tweet of hers, according to Vanity Fair.

On March 28, the day that DeSantis signed the bill into law, Pushaw sent press materials disingenuously defending the law to over  50 media outlets, including the following right-wing websites: Fox News, Epoch Times, Daily Wire, Rebel News, Breitbart News, the Federalist, Daily Caller, Florida’s Conservative Voice, Washington Examiner, National Review, the Blaze, The Post Millennial, One America News Network (OAN), PJ Media, the Free Press, Newsmax, and Town Hall.

The materials also went to right-wing political figure Dan Bongino and influencers Ian Miles Cheong and gay Capitol rioter Brandon Straka.

Pushaw’s materials included a “myth vs fact” document that misrepresented the law. It noted that the bill didn’t actually ban the word “gay,” which is misleading because the law forbids discussions about “sexual orientation.”

Pushaw also said the law won’t require schools to out LGBTQ students to their possibly non-accepting parents, like many of its opponents had claimed.

But Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said that the law requires schools to get parental consent before providing students with mental health counseling. Because parents can inquire about why their kids might need such counseling, that alone could potentially out them.

Pushaw’s document also said, “Schools should never give students medical treatments (for example, cross sex hormones for students who identify as transgender) behind their parents’ backs.”

But Florida law already requires schools to get written parental consent before they can dispense even over-the-counter medications like aspirin to kids. “There are no documented cases of Florida schools giving children hormone replacement therapy or puberty blockers, which require a prescription,” The Daily Dot noted.

Pushaw’s press materials also admitted that Florida’s educational standards don’t actually include “inappropriate sexual content or gender ideology.” As such, the law sought to forbid something that wasn’t happening in the state to begin with.

DeSantis, Pushaw, and others have claimed that some Florida teachers are presenting inappropriate and pornographic material on LGBTQ issues and sex regardless, but no one has provided any concrete proof of it. In fact, most of Pushaw and Raichik’s tweets about inappropriate lessons have involved incidents that occurred outside of Florida.

Many of the right-wing outlets that Pushaw contacted ended up framing the law in much the same way as she had.

While it’s common for political and governmental press offices to coordinate with media outlets that are most sympathetic to their agendas, DeSantis’s office sought to “[pollute] the information ecosystem to obscure the bill’s true meaning,” Eli Erlick, founder of the Trans Student Educational Resources, told the aforementioned publication.

“By withholding these statements from less-biased news sources and [giving them to] news sources that will propagate their agenda, they’re creating this circle of discourse about what the Don’t Say Gay bill really is,” Erlick said.

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