A spokesman for Florida governor Ron DeSantis is accusing a writer for CNN of engaging in “media malpractice” for using unnamed “Experts” to push the narrative that the governor’s decision to reject a pilot African American history course “echoes similar decisions made by fascist dictators” including Vladimir Putin.
According to an exchange on Twitter, at 10:07 a.m., John Blake from CNN emailed Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’s press secretary, asking for comment on an article he is writing about the governor’s decision to reject “an high school Advanced Placement course on African American history course in Florida.”
“I’ve talked to one of the nation’s leading scholars on fascism who, along with another scholar who is an authority on fascism, say that DeSantis’ decision echoes similar decisions made by fascist dictators to force what one historian calls ‘collective amnesia’ about the past,” Blake wrote.
In a portion of Blake’s email provided to National Review, the CNN writer likens DeSantis’s rejection of the AP African-American studies pilot course to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s efforts to distort Russian history.
“More specifically, they say that DeSantis’ decisions are similar to ‘memory laws’ in places like Putin’s Russia, where Russians are forbidden to learn about atrocities from the past such as Stalin’s purges,” Blake continued. “They also compare DeSantis’ decision to the Jim Crow era, where many teachers were forced to teach a whitewashed version of American history that, among other things, ignored the true cause of the Civil War, which was slavery.”
Griffin posted a portion of Blake’s email on Twitter, calling it “this morning’s activism from @CNN,” and adding, “This isn’t journalism — it’s media malpractice. Taking a critic’s dishonest position, legitimizing it with unnamed Experts™, and writing with a standard of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ does absolutely nothing to inform the public.”
Just before 11 a.m., Griffin replied to Blake via email, which he also shared on Twitter. He called Blake’s inquiry “absurd” and “false.”
“There will always be extreme critics, but it is the media’s choice whether to give them a platform and legitimize their extremism,” Griffin wrote. “If you choose to print such critique and amplify it as a perspective by which we are guilty until proven innocent, it will speak more to the moral bankruptcy and untruthfulness of your outlet than anything else.”
“If this is what CNN considers journalism,” he added, “it deserves to fail.”
According to CNN’s website, Blake is an enterprise writer and producer covering race, religion, politics, “and other assorted topics.” He has worked for the outlet for over 16 years, according to his LinkedIn page. When reached on the phone Friday by a National Review reporter, Blake said “no comment” and hung up.
The flap comes as CNN is attempting to shed its image as a leftwing outlet and to rebrand itself as more of a down-the-middle, reporting-centered news organization.
DeSantis has made headlines recently after Florida rejected a pilot AP course in African-American studies. Critics of the course argue that a portion dealing with contemporary political and cultural controversies is dominated by mostly hard-left voices, and omits conventional liberal and conservative perspectives.
DeSantis’s critics, including White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, have accused the governor of wanting to block “the study of Black Americans.”
DeSantis stood by the decision to reject the course on Monday, telling reporters during an event in Jacksonville that it advocates for radical political positions and attempts to indoctrinate students, noting that one section of the course is focused on “Black Queer Studies.”
“Who would say that an important part of black history is queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids,” he said. “And so, when you look to see, they have stuff about intersectionality, abolishing prisons. That’s a political agenda.”
The College Board announced Wednesday that it will release a revised curriculum for the AP African-American studies course on February 1, just halfway through the first year of a two-year trial period for the pilot program.
Blake’s article had not been published as of Friday afternoon and it’s unclear whether it will include dissenting voices.