Atyia Collins, a reporter with NewsFirst Coast , a Jacksonville news station, was ready with a question when DeSantis made a stop in the city. While waiting for the Governor’s press conference to begin, a microphone on stage picked up her bantering conversation with a second reporter there.
“My job here is to ask the tough questions and make him uncomfortable, I guess,” she tells the second reporter beside her.
“Good for you,” he tells her. “You go for it.”
“I'm gonna try,” she replies. “Try to at least get one.”
And she did.
Nicholas Fondacaro of Media Research Center says Collins was right in one sense: It is the media’s job to press politicians for answers on behalf of the public. But the question Collins asked Gov. DeSantis, about school books being pulled from library shelves in the local school district, demonstrated her dishonesty or her misunderstanding of the facts.
In a telling video produced by MRC, Collins asks DeSantis to react to library shelves that were emptied of books because school leaders are fearful of a new state law. She cited a viral video of the empty book shelves, which accused DeSantis of censorship, but the Governor appeared ready for the question. He called that claim a “fake narrative” because no school library is removing all its books out of fear.
“They hadn’t even put the books out to begin with,” Gov. DeSantis said of Florida's public schools, including Duval County Schools, where the video was taken in an elementary school in late January.
In light of the empty-shelves video, Duval County school leaders released a YouTube video helpfully explaining the state law and how they are following its guidelines.
According to that video, it appears library books are being put on the shelf in Florida schools after a trained media specialist examines each one to confirm it doesn't contain adult-oriented content. So books are being removed to review them, not out of fear.
In his response to Collins, Gov. DeSantis urged her to flip through the book "Gender Queer" and see for herself what young children in other states are being exposed to. The state law in Florida prevents children for being exposed to that, he said.
The communication team for DeSantis pushed back at Collins, too: Bryan Griffin, the Governor's press secretary, ripped apart the First Coast News story in a lengthy Twitter post that disputed the story line by line.
Christina Pushaw, the rapid response director for DeSantis, called Collins a "journactivist" in a tweet.
Fondacaro says the Governor’s media team has been on the “receiving end” of bad-faith media over and over, and appears they have grown “prickly” over time.