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The Republican Party of Florida excluded numerous journalists from covering a fundraising dinner starring Gov. Ron DeSantis: 'This is not normal'

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit held at the Tampa Convention Center on July 22, 2022 in Tampa, Florida.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit held at the Tampa Convention Center on July 22, 2022 in Tampa, Florida.
  • The Republican Party of Florida once invited a lot of media to its big "Sunshine Summit" fundraiser.
  • But this year the list was far more exclusive, though Insider was granted access to a dinner.
  • DeSantis often bashes the media but fields a wide range of questions at press conferences. 

HOLLYWOOD, Florida — The Republican Party of Florida and the Gov. Ron DeSantis campaign on Saturday refused credentials to numerous journalists for a major fundraiser that typically includes a broader media presence. 

Among the publications denied credentials to the "Sunshine Summit" breakout speeches, debates, and banquet at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino were Politico, the Palm Beach Post, and the Miami Herald.

The Washington Post and The New York Times also did not receive access, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. 


The Republican Party of Florida invited only a few media outlets, including Insider, to cover the "Victory Dinner" in person. Among the other outlets present were the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Florida Sun-Sentinel, and the Tampa Bay Times.

"I've covered RPOF annual convention since 2012," one reporter who was not on the list told Insider, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by their employer to do interviews. "Never once had issue covering. This is not normal." 

The 2015 summit had 350 credentialed media. Donald Trump spoke that year as a candidate for president.

The journalists given access to the "Victory Dinner" were seated on top of risers in the back of the banquet room, where 1,500 people were dining on a meal of fish and steak. 


Gov. Ron DeSantis was the star speaker, though guests also heard from Sen. Marco Rubio, who is up for reelection this year, as well as Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez. 


Conservative-leaning outlets such as Florida Voices, Breitbart, and the Washington Free Beacon were invited to cover other events throughout the day, according to a spreadsheet obtained by Politico and posted on Twitter. Insider did not receive an invitation to the other portions of the summit and did not learn until Saturday the option was made available to select outlets. 

Reporters who weren't authorized to cover the event from inside the room obtained recordings and interviewed attendees outside the banquet hall.

The Sunshine Summit is a major gathering organized by the Republican Party of Florida, but the Republican National Committee and the DeSantis campaign were also involved in organizing the event.  

Asked about the limited guest list, Dave Abrams, DeSantis campaign spokesperson, brushed off the complaints.  

"It's funny that the very reporters who were uninterested in the Sunshine Summit were the same ones huddled in a corner across from the entrance hoping for a peek," he said. "We aren't bothered by their tantrums — in fact it validates our presumption that fair coverage was never a thought for them."

A schedule of the event shows the event showcased speeches from conservative columnists, Republicans running for office, and congressional debates. 

The Republican Party of Florida did not livestream the event but NBC 6 and other TV outlets were permitted to carry the event live if they chose, said Lindsey Curnutte, spokeswoman for the DeSantis campaign. A Getty photographer was invited but didn't attend, though a Bloomberg photographer was present. 

The Florida GOP live-tweeted some of DeSantis' quotes from his speech.  

Curnutte acknowledged the media this year was "invite only" but didn't share details about the screening process.

'Try crying about it'

DeSantis often casts himself as an attack dog against the media at a time when polling shows public trust in the press is low.

DeSantis has particularly sparred with journalists over their scrutiny regarding his COVID-19 pandemic response in Florida, which often conflicts with federal health guidance. On Saturday he boasted that he "stood up to the media" and specifically derided the "corporate media." 

Yet DeSantis' actual press relationship is more nuanced. His official press conferences tend to be open to a wide range of media outlets. At the majority of events, he fields numerous questions from reporters that often are off topic from the event's intended purpose, though every once in a while he does not take any questions following an event. 

Saturday's event, in contrast, was a political event — not an official event for the governor's office.

"My message to them is to try crying about it. Then go to kickboxing and have a margarita," DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said on Twitter, mocking a comment previously made by former White House press secretary Jen Psaki. "And write the same hit piece you were gonna write anyway."

The Tallahassee Democrat speculated the DeSantis campaign might not want the governor's event to overshadow another event happening across the state in Tampa, where former President Donald Trump was speaking at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit. 

DeSantis spoke at that same summit on Friday evening and there is growing speculation that he may choose to run for president in 2024 as Trump continues to dangle the possibility of a White House run. Trump, too, often clashed with the press. 

President Joe Biden's White House has faced complaints from reporters about transparency as well. In June, 68 White House journalists asked press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to stop prescreening and routinely turning away the same reporters for the president's public events. 

"The continued inability of the White House to be candid and transparent about the selection process for reporters attending his remarks undermines President Biden's credibility when he says he is a defender of the First Amendment," the letter said. 

Jean-Pierre said at a White House briefing earlier this month that reopening the events was a "priority."

Read the original article on Business Insider

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