Semafor, a new media outlet funded in part from liberal investor and disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, is facing national backlash after a hit piece on Governor Ron DeSantis. Semafor reporter Max Tani published an article criticizing Governor DeSantis for shying away from mainstream liberal media outlets and focusing on appearing on more conservative platforms, especially in Florida. Semafor complained that the Governor’s office has taken the ‘the luxurious position of being able to brush off traditional media.’ Governor DeSantis’ team responded by saying, “It’s not luxury to have print & corporate media stacked against you — but conservatives have to fight back and refuse to accept that biased & dishonest media are entitled to attention or access.” Broadly, the article is drawing national criticism for alluding that the mainstream press is entitled to attention and its open application to fact-checking. The cherry-picked smear piece is not a good start for a fledgling media company.
FOX NEWS: DeSantis spox return fire after ‘mainstream media’ hit piece: ‘Conservatives have to fight back’
Joe Silverstein, Alexa Moutevelis; December 6, 2022
Semafor, a new media outlet founded by Ben Smith and Justin Smith, is facing major blowback for its reporting on Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s relationship with the media.
In a Sunday article titled, “Ron DeSantis is building his own media,” Semafor media reporter Max Tani detailed the governor’s penchant for primarily interviewing with conservative media outlets, including two new Florida publications, framing the governor’s media habits as an attempt to receive easy interviews and friendly publicity.
As Tani put it on Twitter, “Ron DeSantis is building his own alternative conservative media ecosystem in Florida,” while Semafor’s official Twitter account said, “The Florida governor has been freezing out the mainstream press and giving interviews to outlets backed by GOP donors.”
Members of the governor’s team pushed back against Semafor’s claims and criticized liberal media for not giving Republicans a fair shake.
Bryan Griffin, Gov. DeSantis’s press secretary, tweeted a quote from the story and responded, “Right… ‘the luxurious position of being able to brush off traditional media.’ It’s not luxury to have print & corporate media stacked against you – but conservatives have to fight back and refuse to accept that biased & dishonest media are entitled to attention or access.”
Deputy press secretary Jeremy Redfern replied to Tani’s tweet, asking, “Are you going to be okay?”
“When your options are rabidly partisan legacy media, Democrat activists posing as a Capitol Press Corps, a pay4play Lincoln Project blog, and ‘new media’ like Semafor (allegedly owned by Sam Bankman-Fried), of course it makes sense to cultivate an alternative,” DeSantis communications staffer Christina Pushaw tweeted.
Semafor received part of its initial funding from disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), who has been widely condemned for allegedly fraudulent business practices that led to the collapse of his company. Several others on Twitter attacked the publication for its connection to Bankman-Fried.
“Is there a bigger joke than Semafor right now? So if we get this straight… DeSantis won’t appear on so-called mainstream programs like, you know, The View, and that means he’s freezing ‘media’ out? SBF can’t be happy with his big investment here. How big is that again?” Fox News contributor Joe Concha wrote.
“Semafor is @BuzzFeed [Ben Smith]’s new Left wing blog that took money from [Bankman-Fried],” Richard Grenell, who served as acting Director of National of Intelligence during the Trump administration, tweeted.
Pushaw further blasted Tani for errors in his article, highlighting the claim that DeSantis’s “last interview with a mainstream outlet was a sit-down with a local CBS affiliate in late 2021.”
“You don’t even fact check your own stories before publishing them, so why should @GovRonDeSantis talk to you? Fact: He talked with local TV stations in the last few months during Hurricane Ian and also did an interview with Telemundo,” she tweeted.
Columnist Karol Markowicz pointed out another mistake where Tani claimed, “DeSantis declined the offer to chat with Whoopi Goldberg and Meghan McCain” on The View in August and did an interview with a conservative Florida website instead.
“.@MeghanMcCain has not been on the View since 2021 and it’s a giant plus for @GovRonDeSantis that he doesn’t talk to media jokes like Whoopi who openly despise conservatives. Good for @thewillwitt for getting the interview,” she tweeted.
Semafor has since added a correction and replaced McCain in the copy with Joy Behar.
Conservative pundits continued to pile on, pointing out that Democrat politicians benefit from a friendly left-leaning media.
“In an environment where corporate media are just straight up anti-GOP propagandists — and extremely proud of it — why is Ron DeSantis the only person taking it seriously? (Also major corporate media propagandists are obviously not ‘mainstream’ and should never be called that),” The Federalist editor in chief Mollie Hemingway tweeted.
“Democrats already have their own media,” Joel Pollak, Breitbart senior editor-at-large tweeted.
Scott Wagner, Vice Chairman for the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, tweeted, “Well, after 60 Minutes dropped all of its journalistic integrity and edited and falsified an entire piece, you don’t have to wonder why @GovRonDeSantis dumped those losers.”
Wagner was referencing a 2021 incident in which CBS’s “60 Minutes” erroneously reported that DeSantis selected Publix to serve as a vaccine distribution site as a kickback for political donations he received from the company. The report was discredited and even several prominent Democrats in the state came to DeSantis’s defense.
Pluribus editor Jeryl Bier wrote, “The biggest problem with this article is the conclusion that DeSantis is popular primarily because he gets friendly media coverage as opposed to voters liking his policies.”
DeSantis won his re-election bid last month in dominant fashion, and is considered one of the top prospective GOP primary candidates should he throw his hat into the 2024 presidential ring.
Photo: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky