“Shameful”: Ron DeSantis boycotting NBC News after tantrum over interview question

NBC's Andrea Mitchell said she was "imprecise" in saying DeSantis thinks "slavery should not be taught" in schools

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published February 23, 2023 12:35PM (EST)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' office has announced it will boycott both NBC News and MSNBC after chief Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell said that DeSantis is attempting to prevent slavery from being taught in public schools during an interview with Vice President Kamala Harris.

"Let me ask you, what does Governor Ron DeSantis not know about Black history and the Black experience when he says that slavery and the aftermath of slavery should not be taught to Florida schoolchildren?" Mitchell asked Harris last week.

Michell's question sparked outrage from DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin, who called the comment "shameful."

"This question from @mitchellreports exemplifies everything wrong with corporate media," he tweeted. "They're not accidentally terrible at their jobs--they're maliciously intent on deceiving people. @GovRonDeSantis never said this, and FL has extensive black history requirements."

He followed up by tweeting a link to the Florida Department of Education's African American history requirements. 

The longtime NBC reporter issued a "postscript" at the end of her Wednesday morning broadcast, correcting her characterization of the A.P. African-American studies curriculum rejected by DeSantis.

"A postscript, in my interview last Friday with Vice President Harris, I was imprecise in summarizing Governor DeSantis's position about teaching slavery in schools," Mitchell said. "Governor DeSantis is not opposed to teaching the fact of slavery in schools." 

She added: "But he has opposed the teaching of an African American studies curriculum as well as the use of some authors and source materials that historians and teachers say makes it all but impossible for students to understand the broader historic and political context behind slavery and its aftermath in the years since."

However, this wasn't enough for Griffin, who put out a statement on Twitter, saying that DeSantis' office will be taking "a step back" until Mitchell "corrects the blatant lie she made about the governor". 

DeSantis' Deputy Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern also rejected the apology.

"Saying one was 'imprecise,' when what they said was a blatant lie, is not an apology," Redfern wrote on Twitter. "@MSNBC /@NBCNews should not be viewed as an objective media organization. Stop letting the corporate media be the gatekeepers of truth."

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Former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann suggested that DeSantis was "afraid" of Mitchell.

"Ron's presidential campaign is going to be an awfully short one if you have to keep drying his tears," he tweeted in response to Griffin's statement.

DeSantis appears to be laying the groundwork for a presidential bid, recently flying to events in New York and Illinois. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, this week hit out at DeSantis' efforts to limit what can be taught in schools.

"Ron DeSantis's dangerous and hateful agenda has no place in Illinois," Pritzker tweeted. "Banning books, playing politics with people's lives, and censoring history are antithetical to who we are."

The DeSantis administration announced last month that it rejected the curriculum of an AP African American studies course, arguing that it sought to indoctrinate kids with leftist ideology. Pritzker responded by slamming the decision.

"Regardless of some leaders' efforts, ignoring and censoring the accurate reporting of history will not change the realities of the country in which we live. In Illinois, we will not accept this watering down of history," Pritzker wrote in a letter to the College Board, which sets the AP curriculum. "One Governor should not have the power to dictate the facts of U.S. history. In Illinois, we reject any curriculum modifications designed to appease extremists like the Florida Governor and his allies."

Pritzker has repeatedly hit out at DeSantis, taking issue with arguments that the Florida governor would offer Republicans a more moderate alternative to former President Donald Trump in the 2024 GOP primary.

"DeSantis is really just Donald Trump with a mask on," Pritzker said last year. "He's trying to pass off his covert racism, homophobia and misogyny as a more reasonable form of Trump Republicanism."

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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Aggregate Andrea Mitchell Politics Ron Desantis