American Federation of Teachers union president Randi Weingarten was ripped on social media after she criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over his campaign’s promotion and sale of merchandise containing messages that appear to push back on COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Weingarten was responding to reports on Wednesday that DeSantis’ 2022 reelection campaign is hawking merch intended to showcase his COVID policies and his commitment to ensuring Floridians are as free from liberty-choking restrictions on their lives as possible.
Some of the merchandise includes the phrase, “Don’t Fauci My Florida,” a reference to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s lead immunologist and top medical adviser to the Biden administration, who regularly calls for continuing pandemic restrictions such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and getting a COVID vaccine.
Other merch includes the phrase “Keep Florida Free,” while a beverage koozie sold by the DeSantis campaign says, “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”
Slogans and sayings featured on the campaign merch all stem from pushback DeSantis and other GOP officials in Florida received from Democratic lawmakers and governors after he decided to reopen his state in May 2020, far earlier than nearly any other state, against the advice of Fauci and other federal health officials.
But the DeSantis campaign’s ‘in-your-face’ push of its pro-freedom/anti-COVID restriction merch appeared to be too much for Weingarten, who has pushed for a year to keep public schools closed while stumping for billions in new spending on COVID-related safety measures in schools across the country that would include raises for union member teachers.
“Disgusting. Millions of Floridians are going to die for Ron DeSantis’ ignorance and he’s choosing to profit from it. He doesn’t care about Floridians; he cares about furthering his own cruel agenda,” Weingarten wrote on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
Her comments were quickly seized upon by DeSantis defenders, among them, his press secretary Christina Pushaw.
“Florida’s COVID death rate is lower than the national average, and unlike the Governor of New York, we don’t fudge the numbers. Meanwhile, Randi Weingarten ruined the education of millions of kids by keeping them out of school for more than a year based on a conspiracy theory,” she wrote, adding in another tweet the “conspiracy theory” Weingarten pushed came from debunked allegations made by Rebekah Jones, Florida’s former health department dashboard manager who was fired after falsely claiming the DeSantis administration ordered her to lower COVID death counts.
This is the “conspiracy theory” Randi believes in that I referenced in my Tweet above. I would assume journalists could figure that out but apparently not. https://t.co/OyzUqezWzN
— Christina Pushaw (@ChristinaPushaw) July 15, 2021
Others joined in as well, including frequent poster AdamInHTown.
“We haven’t even reached one million deaths yet from(or with) COVID in the entire country. You’re in education. Shouldn’t you not suck at math this badly?” he wrote.
“You’re just mad that DeSantis champions school choice & banned Critical Race Theory & doesn’t cave to your radical leftist union demands that have nothing to do with educating kids,” added former One America News host-turned conservative podcaster Liz Wheeler.
“Shut up, Randi,” wrote state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who is running for a seat in Florida’s 7th Congressional District during next year’s midterms.
“Texas has been open for a year. We are also maskless. Kids are going back to school mask free this year and they don’t have to social distance. Your over the top pretend to be outraged fear porn is over. Not buying it,” user Kambree said.
“Randi, no one likes you. I’d be sorry if it weren’t *entirely* your fault,” wrote Timcast Media producer Lydia Smith.
Post-pandemic economic studies essentially vindicate DeSantis’ decision not to keep his state on perpetual lockdown as other blue-state governors did.
“With rare exceptions, the states that shut down the longest suffered the most economic harm. …Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis let nearly all businesses stay open after May,” The Wall Street Journal reported in April.
“Florida’s private GDP had shrunk only 1.1% by year-end, dragged down by weak international and domestic tourism. New York’s food and accommodation industry shrank more than twice as much as Florida’s and the most in the U.S.,” the paper added.
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