In a Tuesday news conference Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said that he did not support a controversial state legislature bill that would have required bloggers to register with the government.
“I see these people filing bills and there are these articles with my face on the article saying that bloggers are going to have to register with the state and they’re attributing it to me,” DeSantis said. “That’s not anything I’ve ever supported, I don’t support.”
The legislation, introduced by State Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-District 9), said that people paid to write about Florida officials would be required to register with the state or face a fine of up to $2500 per blog post.
In an email to TYT, Jeremy T. Redfern, DeSantis’s deputy press secretary, said that the governor and his staff “were not aware of this legislation until it was filed.” He did not answer as to whether DeSantis, a possible Republican presidential candidate, had discussed the topic of media regulation with Brodeur beforehand.
The bill was widely condemned as a threat to freedom of the press, with some critics comparing it to a 2014 law passed in Russia that also forced bloggers to submit to a government registry
Even former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a far-right Republican, condemned Brodeur’s bill.
“The idea that bloggers criticizing a politician should register with the government is insane,” Gingrich wrote in a Twitter post. “It is an embarrassment that it is a Republican state legislator in Florida who introduced a bill to that effect. He should withdraw it immediately.”
Sunshine State Democrats also blasted the bill, entitled “Information Dissemination.”
“This bill is another example of how weak and fragile Florida Republican egos are. Every day I am attacked by random blogs on the internet and I have never once even thought of filing a bill to prohibit it,” State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-District 42) told TYT.
“Unfortunately with the rise of fascism in Florida comes the attempts to censor freedom of speech, and it’s been great to see at least some of the GOP backlash from other parts of the country,” she said.
This is not the first time that Brodeur has attracted controversy in Florida. He is one of several state Republicans at the center of a “ghost candidate” scandal in which Republican operatives allegedly paid to set up fake progressive independent candidates to siphon votes away from Democrats during 2020 elections.
In 2019, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Brodeur paid at least $30,000 to a Jacob Engels who described himself as a writer for Infowars, the website of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Brodeur has claimed to have no connection to Jestine Iannotti, who ran as an independent candidate in his district against Democrat Patricia Sigman.
Both Iannotti and a Florida Republican consultant named Eric Foglesong have been charged by state prosecutors with felony campaign finance violations. Fogelson has sought to compel several current and former Orlando Sentinel journalists to provide records and testimony in his criminal trial.