Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) is capitalizing on the right-wing anger toward Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, by selling clothing and accessories on his campaign fundraising website, which deride the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci, who currently serves as a direct adviser to President Joe Biden on coronavirus and other health issues, had previously also advised former President Donald Trump on COVID-19. But during most of the past year, he became a favorite target of Republicans, particularly those aligned with Trump. This was largely due to his science-based approach on how to deal with the pandemic even as Trump and many Republican officials were peddling nonsensical theories about the disease and resisting common sense steps to curtail the pandemic.
Now the Florida governor’s campaign is shamelessly exploiting the right wing’s anti-Fauci sentiments — in the midst of a new spike in COVID hospitalizations in the state — with a fundraising website that peddles drink koozies and T-shirts bearing the phrase: “Don’t Fauci My Florida.”
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The koozies are currently being sold for $12, while the T-shirts retail on the site for $21. Another product on the site features a quote attributed to DeSantis himself, in which he discourages mask-wearing.
“How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?” reads the legend on those products.
The anti-mask sentiment that DeSantis is selling, however, goes against what scientific evidence says about protecting against coronavirus. While not 100 percent effective in preventing someone from contracting COVID, a number of studies have found that masks do indeed make a difference. Municipalities that kept mask mandates in place earlier this year, for example, saw better outcomes than those that lifted requirements when their states allowed them to do so.
Florida, meanwhile, has experienced some of the highest increases in coronavirus infections in the country in the past two weeks. The 14-day average for new cases being reported in the state is up by 257 percent since the start of July, significantly higher than the national rate for new cases. The state’s hospitalization rate is also up by 50 percent in the past two weeks, more than double the rate change experienced by the U.S. as a whole.
In spite of DeSantis’s home state seeing alarmingly higher levels of coronavirus, the Florida governor is widely considered to be the Republican Party’s favorite to run for president in 2024, but only if Trump decides against doing so. In a straw poll conducted at this past weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Trump was the overwhelming choice of participants, with 70 percent saying they wanted him to be the party’s nominee. Removing Trump from that straw poll, however, resulted in DeSantis taking the lead, with 68 percent of participants saying they preferred him over other choices.
Also during the CPAC, the crowd cheered when it was announced that the U.S. did not meet goals laid out by Biden regarding vaccination rates across the country. Discussing the incident during an appearance on CNN on Sunday, Fauci himself expressed great discomfort.
“It’s horrifying, I mean, the cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people to not try and save their lives,” Fauci said.
“I just don’t get that and I don’t think anybody who is thinking clearly can get that,” he added.