One America News, a far-right propaganda outlet, unofficially opened its Tallahassee bureau in June 2021. In an official press release celebrating the bureau's launch nearly 14 months later, OAN President Charles Herring implied that the bureau was opened to follow DeSantis’s rise to prominence and potential presidential run, stating, “Florida news is becoming national news, especially as we head into the 2024 Presidential race.”
OAN has shown blatant support for DeSantis and his policies, calling DeSantis “America’s Governor,” claiming he is doing “a lot to hold the administration in D.C. accountable” and has become a “household name, one symbolizing common-sense leadership against woke madness.”
Since January 6, 2021, OAN has aired at least 53 unique interviews with members of the DeSantis administration. These include DeSantis himself (11), Lieutenant Gov. Jeanette Núñez (12), Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis (18), who told OAN he watches their programming, Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo (3), Education Commissioner Manny Diaz (3), former Education Commissioner Rich Corcoran (2), Former Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen (1), Attorney General Ashley Moody (2), and Secretary of State Cord Byrd (1).
OAN filmed at least 8 interviews for 30-minute specials fawning over the DeSantis administration, including 2021’s “One-on-One” with DeSantis and the more recent “Class Warfare: Reclaiming Florida schools from the left,” which defended the governor’s attempt to eradicate so-called woke education. Outside of former President Donald Trump, DeSantis appears to be the only Republican politician to receive this kind of sustained attention from the network.
OAN has moved in lockstep with DeSantis' administration on many different policies, from harassing LGBTQ people, to fighting COVID-19 regulations and vaccines, to attacking voting rights based on misinformation. The network provided DeSantis’ administration a refuge from critics and a platform for their agenda.
In one April 2022 interview with DeSantis, then-OAN bureau chief Stefan Kleinhenz called the widely-criticized “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity deemed inappropriate for students from Kindergarten through 3rd grade, “a very popular bill.” Kleinhenz never mentioned protests or specific criticisms from students, educators, and LGBT activists who opposed the legislation. Instead, he gave DeSantis an opportunity to “push back” at corporations who “were getting bad information from the popular [opinion]."
OAN regularly hosted Núñez and Ladapo to defend Florida’s COVID-19 response from criticism that DeSantis’ attacks on vaccine and mask mandates harmed public health. At least two of Núñez’ interviews touted Desantis' pandemic response amid reports Florida was undercounting coronavirus deaths and hiding critical information from the public.
After making the rounds on conspiracy outlets last October, Ladapo joined OAN to promote research recommending that young men not receive mRNA vaccines that had been slammed by experts. During that November 2022 In Focus appearance, Ladapo also opposed vaccinating kids against COVID-19:
ADDISON SMITH (HOST): Clearly the evidence is there that these vaccines are not effective — are not very safe for so many people. Yet big pharma and the Democrat Party are painting it with such a broad brush, acting like, you know, it's just like getting a flu shot. Why?
JOSEPH LADAPO (SURGEON GENERAL, FLORIDA): It's a great question. … Parents are mostly, by and large, they are saying, no thank you to these vaccines for their kids. And thank goodness, because it's just — there's just no evidence that they actually benefit most of the children in this country at this point in the pandemic with so many of them. I mean, almost all of them have had COVID. Like what exactly are trying to improve with these vaccines?
Both OAN and DeSantis’ administration have embraced conspiracy theories about voting rights groups. On March 6, Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd appeared on OAN for the first time to defend Florida’s decision to leave the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) -- the behind-the-scenes organization that helps states maintain their voter lists -- following a long-term campaign run by election conspiracists who believe ERIC is part of a left-wing plot to steal elections.
The reporter in charge of the interview, Florida Bureau Chief and election denialist Neil McCabe, legitimized the conspiracies by asking Byrd, “There's a member of the ERIC board who is associated with the efforts of Mark Zuckerberg to influence elections, and are you concerned about that gentleman and also access of third parties into ERIC?” Byrd cited vague concerns over privacy and partisanship in his response.
OAN appears to be a go-to platform for DeSantis and his administration to push their harmful policies unchallenged, despite the channel’s utter lack of credibility and shrinking influence after three large carriers dropped the network in 2022.
Correction (4/12/23):This piece originally stated that Rick Swearingen had 2 appearances on OAN between January 6, 2021, and March 11, 2023. In fact, he had one appearance in that time frame, bringing the total number of appearances by DeSantis administration members down from 54 to 53. Additionally, this piece incorrectly referred to Swearingen as the current Florida Law Enforcement Commissioner. Swearingen retired in September 2022.