'Sellout': Ron DeSantis faces backlash from anti-vax extremists as Florida becomes COVID-19 'hotspot'

'Sellout': Ron DeSantis faces backlash from anti-vax extremists as Florida becomes COVID-19 'hotspot'

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been a devout Trump supporter, and many pundits have described him as the Republican who would be the most likely to win the 2024 GOP presidential nomination if former President Donald Trump doesn't run. But DeSantis is now coming under fire from anti-vax extremists on the far right for urging Floridians to get vaccinated from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Politico reporter Matt Dixon explains, "Florida's COVID crisis has wedged Gov. Ron DeSantis between two competing forces: public health experts who urge him to do more and anti-vaxxers who want him to do less. The Republican governor has come under attack from the medical community and Democrats as the Delta strain of COVID-19 sweeps through Florida, turning it into a national coronavirus hotspot."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five new COVID-19 infections in the United States is in Florida. But that isn't preventing the anti-vaxxers in Trumpworld from saying that DeSantis has betrayed the MAGA cause by encouraging vaccination for COVID-19.

DeSantis, according to Dixon, is now "facing a backlash from the anti-vaccination wing of his political base." Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for example, criticized DeSantis during an appearance on the talk show "The Right Side with Doug Billings" — saying, "Don't let political correctness get in the way of health choices." And far-right pundit Carlos Cortez, appearing as a guest on right-wing radio host Stew Peters' show, called DeSantis a "sellout.""

But at the same time, some Florida-based health experts believe that with the Delta variant raging in the Sunshine State, the last thing DeSantis should be doing is criticizing expert immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci in order to score cheap political points in MAGA World.

CBSMiami.com quotes Bernard Ashby, a Miami-based cardiologist and leader of the Florida chapter of the Committee to Protect Health Care, as saying, "While hospitals in our state were filling up, DeSantis was shouting about 'Freedom over Faucism.' If DeSantis were as concerned about stopping COVID-19 spread as he was about coming up with these clever jabs about Dr. Fauci, we might not be in this position."

Mona Mangat, an immunologist in St. Petersburg, Florida, has criticisms of DeSantis as well. CBSMiami.com quotes Mangat as saying, "At the same time as DeSantis says the vaccines are effective — which they are — he's also banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. He has taken away private companies' ability to protect their employees and customers by requiring the safe and readily available vaccine."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this report claimed Stew Peters called Gov. Ron DeSantis a "sellout." It has been updated to attribute that quote to Peters' guest Carlos Cortez. AlterNet regrets this error.

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