DeSantis has a less than cordial relationship with many press outlets, and typically refuses to be interviewed by any platform that is not Fox News. In a campaign video released last August, he described his relationship with the press in warlike terms: “The rules of engagement are as follows: Number one—don’t fire unless fired upon, but when they fire, you fire back with overwhelming force. Number two—never ever back down from a fight. Number three—don’t accept their narrative.”
But as Politico notes, the DeSantis-backed bill “goes further than simply decrying media bias,” with free-press experts saying the legislation is unconstitutional and could have extremely worrisome consequences. “I have never seen anything remotely like this legislation,” Seth Stern, director of advocacy for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told the outlet. “I can’t say I have seen every bill ever introduced, but I’d be quite surprised if any state legislature had seriously considered such a brazen and blatantly unconstitutional attack on speech and press freedoms. This bill is particularly remarkable since its provisions have the vocal support of a governor and likely presidential candidate.”
In its current form, the bill would reportedly let plaintiffs who file suits against media outlets for defamation to collect attorneys fees; includes a provision stipulating that remarks by anonymous sources will be assumed false (?) for the purposes of such suits; lower the bar for a “public figure” to be able to prove defamation; and revoke a section of state law concerning “journalist’s privilege,” which protects journalists from being forced to, among other things, reveal the identity of their sources in court.
Earlier this month, DeSantis held a roundtable in which he essentially claimed journalists just make things up. He also insisted that making it easier to sue the press has nothing to do with him—“I got thick skin,” he said—but about standing up for “the little guy.”