The 2020 presidential election? That was rigged, according to the fake news outlet to end all fake news outlets. The elderly protester who was knocked down and bloodied by Brooklyn police during a George Floyd protest? He was an antifa plant trying to disrupt legitimate police business. Chemical attacks by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's regime on his own citizenry? Couldn't have happened — everyone loves him.
Since its founding in 2013, the network commonly known as One America News (OAN) has maintained a presence in Washington, D.C., San Diego, and New York City. Now the network is looking to establish a beachhead in Florida. On its website, the company says it is hiring a political correspondent and videographer to report from Tallahassee.
The hiring effort comes at an interesting time for Republican Party politics. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump disciple, is up for re-election in 2022 and has entered the national spotlight as a potential frontrunner for the 2024 presidential election. Despite criticism of DeSantis' response to the COVID-19 pandemic and his resistance to mask mandates and shutdowns, he has declared himself victorious in the fight and has legions of supporters who agree.
New network in the @FLPressCorps ?@OANN hiring a political correspondent in Tallahassee. @GovRonDeSantis and his political future getting more attention in Florida’s Capitol. pic.twitter.com/KoeoLhigWZ— Jossie B (@jossiebarroso) June 8, 2021
When it comes to his relationship with news reporters, DeSantis has ripped pages straight out of Trump's playbook. The governor has made a habit of calling press conferences and leaving without taking questions. He once blocked the Miami Herald's Tallahassee bureau chief from a COVID press briefing. Most recently, he cemented his status as a conservative media darling by giving an exclusive to Fox News when he signed a bill that curbed vote-by-mail and then signed a bill banning transgender female athletes from competition on the first day of Pride Month.
OAN has called DeSantis a "beacon" for the Republican Party, but political insiders wonder how its presence in Tallahassee will affect the Florida press corps.
"DeSantis has been trying to run this alternative national government out of the governor's mansion," says Nate Monroe, a columnist for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. "He really is running this shadow White House. And no Trumpian-alternative government would be complete without a state media outlet, so there you go."
Oh god. Disinformation making a home for itself in Tallahassee. https://t.co/oHM0p5x2Bu— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (@AnnaForFlorida) June 8, 2021
"OAN is going to be central to it no matter what," Monroe says. "And DeSantis is running in the OAN primary. That's his base. It's going to give him a really powerful outlet and a really powerful megaphone to send a message to his base. I already think he's been quite good at it."
Monroe wonders whether DeSantis and his administration will grant OAN a level of access that other reporters have not had.
"The trick is not getting caught in a constantly responsive mode to disinformation," says the columnist. "I think it would be a mistake for legitimate Florida media to respond to OAN with fact-checks and counter-narratives. That kinda plays into what they want. It's going to be really challenging. I think the challenge for traditional news outlets is going to be staying true to the mission in an increasingly noisy environment."