Orlando Sentinel Hits DeSantis ‘Hard Line Against LGBTQ,’ Transgenders, Minorities

May 29th, 2023 8:31 PM

Jeffrey Schweers, Tallahassee bureau reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, is no fan of Gov. Ron DeSantis. He marked his official entry into the presidential race with a 4,600-word story on Sunday’s front page, “Who Is Ron DeSantis?” The front-page jump leads to a two-page spread inside the paper, both pages headlined with quotes accusing DeSantis of arrogance and bullying.

DeSantis was previously lambasted by Schweers for using fear to push his “hard-right agenda.” This piece, after his official campaign launch, is even more of a hit job. (At least there’s no frowny DeSantis photo this time.)

The story began with the reporter hassling DeSantis’s elderly father for an interview.

A slender, elderly man in glasses and a dark T-shirt answers. He apologizes as he fends off a reporter’s attempts to find out more about his son’s evolution into an ambitious politician and conservative firebrand.


Every attempt to reach out to the people closest to him has been rebuffed or ignored, leaving many questions unanswered about who the intensely private Ron DeSantis really is, particularly why he has taken a hard line against the LGBTQ and transgender communities and minorities.

One of the quotes the paper found worthy of a jump-page headline:

“One of his traits is that he’s always the smartest person in the room, arrogant. People like that don’t seek out mentors,” said David Jolly, a former Republican congressman who served with DeSantis, briefly ran against him for U.S. Senate, and now is an MSNBC political analyst….

(Earlier this year Jolly appeared on Joy Reid’s MSNBC show to claim “Ron DeSantis is tapping into the bloodstream of a party that wants to take America back 50 years and he's refusing to show leadership and suggest let's look toward the next 50.”)

Schweers emphasized the “gay friendly” aspect of Dunedin. where DeSantis’s parents live, and found a self-promotional person to underline that it wasn’t DeSantis country.

“DeSantis doesn’t identify with Dunedin” or embrace its values, [local chamber of commerce head Gregory] Brady said. “We are bohemian, artistic, and accepting, and a great ally to the LGBTQ community.”

Dunedin owes much of its downtown revitalization that began in the 1980s to the city’s first gay bar, said Brady, who managed the bar when it opened.

Over the years, several other bars followed, drawing diverse crowds from all over to participate in events like the Mardi Gras Drag Queen contest, he said. But Brady said he has seen the tide turn over the last two years with the passage of restrictive and punitive laws advocates say discriminate against the gay community….

Schweers tried to paint DeSantis’s academic success as somehow hypocritical.

DeSantis, who went by the nickname of “D,” was also a bright student and excelled in history, yet he doesn’t mention a favorite teacher or a book that stoked his political flames or ambitions. He won the AP U.S. History Student of the Year award in June 1996, according to the 1997 Dunedin High School yearbook.

He also graduated summa cum laude with National Honor Society status.

Twenty-five years later, as governor of Florida, he would ban a new AP African American studies program and clash with the College Board that administers the AP program and the SATs. He also continually mentions that not all students are cut out for college.

Schweers repeated a “smear” by the New York Times and Donald Trump (click “Expand”):

Before he attended Harvard Law, DeSantis spent a year teaching at the exclusive and remote Darlington School in Rome, Georgia.

His memoir skips that entire year when he taught history, was a dorm supervisor, and coached baseball and football.

It’s also in Rome where the 23-year-old college grad “was a frequent presence at parties with seniors who lived in town,” according to a New York Times report.

One student found a note on a teacher’s desk after DeSantis left that reminded staff that fraternizing with students, even after they graduated, was inappropriate. At least two students recalled him at parties where minors were present and alcohol was served.

A photo that popped up on social media shows a photo of what appears to be DeSantis with several young women, one of whom was holding what appeared to be a beer bottle.

Trump has seized on the governor’s time at Darlington as a way to smear DeSantis, accusing him of partying with teenage girls.

“I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden … I don’t spend my time trying to smear other Republicans,” DeSantis said in response to Trump’s allegations but not addressing whether he was in the photograph.

The Sentinel threw shade at DeSantis’s service as a Naval officer at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

DeSantis arrived at Guantanamo during a period of mass hunger strikes by detainees protesting conditions there, The New Republic reported….During his time there, The New Republic reported, three detainees died, the largest loss of life in the prison’s history. They were ruled suicides.

Finally the Sentinel caught up with DeSantis’s successful run for Florida governor in 2018 and his huge re-election win. The story concluded with another pungent quote from Brady:

“There has to be something underlying to all that … to go after gays, drag queens and trans people and pass all that legislation to lay out the groundwork to prove that you’re tough on them,” Brady said. “It’s no accident he signed all those bills before Pride Month.”