Liberal paper accused DeSantis of ‘hunting down liberal professors’
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office blasted The Los Angeles Times editorial board for a piece about a new state law that is “rife with erroneous assumptions,” according to the governor’s press secretary.
The law, which calls for “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” at state colleges, says schools in the Florida College System must conduct an annual survey of “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” and students, faculty and others “feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.”
The Los Angeles Times on Friday published a column by its editorial board headlined, “Editorial: Florida sets up a witch hunt for liberal professors,” which claims the new law pushed by DeSantis is “likely to make the academic climate even less inviting” in the Sunshine State.
“Though it would purportedly make campuses more open to a diversity of opinion, the law is likely to be used primarily as a tool for hunting down liberal professors, encouraging lawsuits and discouraging true freedom of expression,” the L.A. Times editorial board wrote. “It is true that many students — not just conservatives, by the way — keep their thoughts to themselves for fear of backlash.”
The liberal paper’s editorial board went on to claim “the new Florida law threatens to turn universities into spy-and-sue zones based on speech” and would require “annual surveys of students to check on ‘intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity.’” The editorial board even pondered what would happen if the survey found that most opinions on a particular campus are liberal.
Gov. DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw scolded The Los Angeles Times editorial board over the piece.
“The op-ed is rife with erroneous assumptions,” Pushaw told Fox News Digital. “First, it’s clear the writer didn’t read the legislation. HB 233 clearly states that the surveys are simply meant to understand the extent to which faculty and students feel comfortable expressing their views on campus.”
Pushaw continued: “Moreover, these surveys are anonymous and voluntary, so it’s difficult to comprehend how the L.A. Times believes they would be used for ‘witch hunts’ of liberals.”
Pushaw noted that “the vast majority of university professors” are liberal either way, before making a final point.
“There’s nothing in HB 233 about ‘lawsuits’ against faculty for expressing any political views, including left-wing views. The entire point of the legislation is to ensure that Florida universities and colleges are bastions of free expression,” Pushaw said.
The L.A. Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
DeSantis’ office has previously pushed back on false criticism of the new state law that liberal Twitter users, including author Stephen King and several journalists with large followings, have been spreading, despite it being debunked a year ago.
King tweeted this week that DeSantis signed a “bill requiring Florida students, professors to register political views with state.”
King’s tweet appeared to reflect a 2021 Salon article with that exact headline that was published after the governor first signed the bill into law. DeSantis deputy press secretary Bryan Griffin previously told Fox News that this is a misrepresentation of what the law really says.
“No, students and faculty are not required to ‘register their political views,'” Griffin said. “This same fake claim was circling the liberal Twittersphere after the bill was signed in 2021. It was debunked then. It has been debunked again, now.”
That debunking included a Politifact report from June 2021 that said the bill does not require anyone to register their viewpoints. On Wednesday. DeSantis’ office confirmed that there is no registration involved.
“The viewpoint diversity surveys are anonymous, voluntary and no personal information is collected by them at all – only feedback on the intellectual freedom of the campus environment, which is what the survey was designed to determine,” Griffin said.
USA Today domestic security correspondent Josh Meyer, MSNBC columnist Ruth Ben-Ghiat, and University of Miami professor and MSNBC analyst Fernand Amandi all spread the same claim as King Wednesday morning, with Meyer and Amandi both sharing the same 2021 Salon article.
“The goal of this legislation is to ensure that no one feels as though a political ideology is being forced on them in higher education, from any angle,” according to DeSantis’ office.