How many PolitiFact fact-checkers does it take to fact-check a presidential announcement? Apparently four, as that is how many reporters it took to assess seven statements from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Wednesday campaign launch on Twitter Spaces.
The first claim the intrepid quartet checked was “We eliminated critical race theory from our K through 12 schools.”
PolitiFact responded by claiming Critical Race Theory is a non-controversy, “University of Missouri education professor LaGarrett King previously told us that the problem is blown out of proportion. ‘The majority of teachers are not even familiar with what critical race theory is, nor do they teach it in their classrooms,’ King said.”
That doesn’t debunk DeSantis at all. It doesn’t matter if the majority of teachers are unfamiliar with CRT, because that ignores that one does not need to use the literal words “Critical Race Theory” to teach its worldview and that there is more to schools than what goes on in classroom, such as teacher trainings.
Moving on to other education-related topics, DeSantis is quoted as saying “So the whole book ban thing is a hoax. There’s not been a single book banned in the state of Florida.”
Again, PolitiFact dinged DeSantis for not being hyper-literal (a standard constantly applied to Republicans, but not Democrats), “This is misleading.” PolitiFact concedes that DeSantis has been the victim of “some exaggerated or false online claims,” but “DeSantis’ statement downplays book removals that his own administration has acknowledged.”
They go onto cite a DeSantis press release from March saying that 87 percent of removed books were “pornographic, violent, or inappropriate for their grade level.”
PolitiFact doesn’t pronounce any moral judgement on DeSantis for that, but they do add “PEN America…joined book publisher Penguin Random House in suing Florida’s Escambia County school district and its school board after several books on LGBTQ+ topics were removed from school libraries.”
Apart from vaguely defined “LGBTQ+ topics,” the Heritage Foundation recently did a study that showed no less than 74 percent of the 2,532 books PEN America said were banned were not.
In non-education policy, DeSantis argued “Biden’s politicized the military and caused recruiting to plummet.”
Fact-checkers have used Democratic service secretaries to fact-check Republicans on military matters before, but PolitiFact did it again, citing Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, “wokeness in the military or the COVID vaccine mandate, for example, those were relatively low on the list of barriers to service.”
A low barrier is still a barrier. As for crime, DeSantis claimed “In Florida, our crime rate is at a 50-year low.”
PolitiFact couldn’t simply rule DeSantis correct, they had to raise questions about “the quality of that data” because “local agencies have made errors before” and that state police agencies have not all adapted to new methods for data collection. Furthermore, criminology Prof. Lyndsay Boggess said COVID quarantines may have had something to do with low crime as if other states with higher crime rates didn’t have COVID quarantines.
After briefly departing the realm of the ultra-literal on crime, the authors then returned to attack DeSantis’s claim that “Biden’s opened the southern border.”
DeSantis was clearly referring to Biden’s policies or campaign rhetoric that could’ve motivated those seeking flood the border, but PolitiFact replied by simply citing the existence of various border enforcement mechanisms.
As for the true claims, PolitiFact buried those at the bottom. PolitiFact conceded that “We are the No. 1 state for net in-migration” and “We have in Florida, more Black-owned business than any state in the nation,” are both “accurate.” However, they did ding DeSantis for not acknowledging places like D.C., Georgia, and Maryland have higher percentages of black-owned businesses, but PolitiFact didn’t mention those places have a higher percentage of black citizens.