UPDATE: DeSantis campaign attacks Popular Information
Yesterday's Popular Information newsletter exposed that DeSantis, his campaign, and the Florida Republican Party were smearing a political rival — Karla Hernández, Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Florida. DeSantis and his operatives were claiming that, as president of a teachers union, Hernández "protected a sexual predator for years and accompanied him through numerous investigations into his sexual assaults of multiple students." The truth, as Popular Information documented, is that Hernández did nothing to protect the sexual predator, Wendell Nibbs, and never accompanied him to any investigative hearing or proceeding.
The DeSantis campaign did not respond to Popular Information's request for comment prior to publication. Instead, after publication, the DeSantis campaign repeatedly attacked Popular Information on Twitter and accused this newsletter of promoting "disinformation." On the campaign's official Twitter account, @DeSantisWarRoom, it attacked Popular information at least 9 times. These tweets were then amplified by campaign staffers, including Director of Rapid Response Christina Pushaw.
The DeSantis campaign suggested Popular Information's report that Hernández took office as president of the Miami-Dade teachers' union (UTD) on May 2016 was inaccurate. Popular Information's report, however, is correct. Hernández was elected to the position in March 2016 and took office two months later.
The exact date that Hernández took office is irrelevant to the very serious allegations the DeSantis campaign made against Hernández. But the DeSantis campaign is unable to provide any evidence to back up its claims. The Orlando Sentinel asked the DeSantis campaign to substantiate its allegations, and it did not go well:
Asked what proof the governor had for the basis of his allegations, Bryan Griffin, the governor’s press secretary, deferred the question to campaign staff.
The campaign sent a flyer from the Republican Party of Florida that repeated the allegation that Hernandez-Mats protected Nibbs and a Miami Herald article about the investigation, which also described his support of her candidacy for union president in 2016, but nothing that showed she protected Nibbs or hindered the investigation.
The DeSantis campaign is deeply committed to the fiction that a 2019 Miami Herald article supports its claims. It does not. The article describes the monstrous conduct of Nibbs and the failure of criminal and civil investigators to get him out of the school system. You can read it here.
Colleen Wright, the author of the 2019 Miami Herald article who now writes for the Tampa Bay Times, confirmed in a Tweet that claims Hernández protected Nibbs or accompanied him to any proceeding were false.
In another tweet, the DeSantis campaign attacked Popular Information and attempted to offer proof that Hernández lobbied the Biden administration to stop collecting data about sexual assault in K-12 schools. But the information screenshotted in the tweet (from a right-wing research institution) establishes that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), where Hernández also works, opposed an entirely different regulation imposed by Trump. The Trump regulation related to sexual assault investigations at colleges and universities. While the DeSantis campaign wants to paint Hernández and unions as permissive to sexual assault, the unions opposed the Trump rule because it created new obstacles to proving sexual assault claims.
The point of the DeSantis campaign's attacks is not to establish the facts. The point is to deflect responsibility for pushing disinformation until people lose interest.
DeSantis and his operatives are not used to being held accountable.
But we stand by our reporting. And we will not be intimidated by these tactics.
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