May 24, 2024

Ron DeSantis Spokesman Jeremy Redfern Used to Love Vaccines & Anthony Fauci

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s press secretary was an outspoken fan of Anthony Fauci and coronavirus vaccines before joining the anti-Fauci governor’s staff.

Jeremy Redfern, who became DeSantis’s top spokesperson in May, often echoes his boss’s opposition to Fauci, who led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases until 2022. “It wasn’t just that Fauci was bad,” Redfern tweeted in May. “Fauci’s ideas were terrible and detrimental to our republic; Fauci’s ideas were antithetical to individual liberty.”

But in 2020, Redfern was a keyboard warrior for Fauci, defending not just the NIAID director’s reputation, but also anti-COVID measures like travel restrictions. “Can you ask @realDonaldTrump to give Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx the Presidential Medal of Freedom?” Redfern tweeted at Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) in 2020. The tweet has been deleted, but still exists on the Internet Archive.

Reached for comment, Redfern repeatedly declined to deny that he authored the tweets or operated the Twitter account (@EODTEC89), which now directs visitors to Redfern’s current Twitter account (@JeremyRedfernFL). Fellow DeSantis communications staffer Christina Pushaw has tagged the @EODTEC89 account in numerous conversations.

Instead, Redfern claimed the account was created in 2021. Although a current version of the handle shows a 2021 launch date, it appears to be the result of a temporary account deletion that purged Redfern’s past posts. Records on the Internet Archive, linked throughout this story, reveal the account to have been created in 2009.

Shown evidence that the account launched in 2009, and that it sent pro-Fauci tweets throughout 2020, Redfern again declined to deny running the account, but told The Daily Beast, “This just doesn’t make sense to me, tbh.”

DeSantis, who is running for president, has made his controversial COVID-19 response in Florida a central plank of his campaign platform. Touting his disdain for medical experts like Fauci, DeSantis has cast himself as a crusader for reopening schools and businesses, while remaining lukewarm on vaccines. When COVID vaccines became available for children under 5, Florida was the only state that did not order them, with DeSantis stating that Florida did not promote them for young children. “The state’s recommendation holds, it’s a recommendation against doing it,” DeSantis told media.

Those policies had a human toll, a recent New York Times analysis found. Despite an initial COVID vaccination bump among seniors in early 2021, when DeSantis briefly championed the shot, Florida’s vaccination rate later dipped below the national average.

“Floridians died at a higher rate, adjusted for age, than residents of almost any other state during the Delta wave, according to the Times analysis. With less than 7 percent of the nation’s population, Florida accounted for 14 percent of deaths between the start of July and the end of October, “ the Times found.

DeSantis has voiced his increasing ire with Fauci, suggesting last August that “someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac.”

Contacted by The Daily Beast at the time, Redfern mocked the idea that the governor’s remarks warranted a comment. He defended the remarks on Twitter, writing that “Nobody called for Fauci to be thrown INTO the Potomac. The governor said that Fauci should be chucked ACROSS the Potomac. See the difference?”

Redfern later envisioned a scenario in which Fauci would require someone to wear a face mask before rendering aid (“‘Sir, I need you to put on this mask before I start chest compressions.’ – Fauci, probably.”) and lobbed an implicit criticism at the Trump administration for working with Fauci (“Well, at least one prior federal administrations willingly gave some of it to Dr. Fauci”).

In a May thread, posing DeSantis as a “leader who leads,” Redfern decried Fauci as representative of the “swamp creatures” DeSantis opposed. “Just firing Fauci would never be enough if one is unwilling to admit that the strategy was wrong and purge Fauci’s ideas from your pandemic strategy,” he wrote.

We need more of Dr. Fauci in this world.

Jeremy Redfern

Before working for DeSantis, however, Redfern frequently counseled Twitter users (including his fellow conservatives) to pipe down and follow Fauci’s guidance.

When a Twitter user shared a graphic casting doubt on the efficacy of anti-COVID travel restrictions in March 2020, Redfern replied that “there’s not enough data to back these numbers. We won’t have solid data for a year or more, at least. Listen to Dr. Fauci, and not some lawyer.”

“Listen to Dr. Fauci,” he also tweeted at conservative media personality Megyn Kelly, who had tweeted that she didn’t know where to turn for “real info on COVID.”

“Listen to this guy, and your doctor. That’s about it,” Redfern tweeted again, atop a video of Fauci giving a press conference about COVID.

His remarks sometimes set him in opposition to fellow conservatives. When medical personality Dr. Oz appeared on CNN to suggest that the country was overreacting to COVID in late March 2020, Redfern lambasted the soon-to-be GOP Senate candidate.

“Why is Dr. Oz still allowed to use the term doctor? He’s such a fraud,” Redfern wrote of Oz’s CNN appearance.

Even as Republican opinion began to turn against Fauci and anti-COVID measures in late April 2020, Redfern heaped praise on the NIAID leader, pointing to his previous Presidential Medal of Freedom. “It was for his work on HIV/AIDS,” Redfern noted. “We need more of Dr. Fauci in this world.”

Redfern has previously deleted tweets that might have put him at odds with would-be DeSantis voters. After outreach from The Daily Beast last year, Redfern purged tweets critical of the far-right news channel One America News.

DeSantis’s presidential campaign, meanwhile, is reeling under revelations that a staffer produced a pro-DeSantis video that superimposed a Nazi symbol on DeSantis’s face. That staffer, speechwriter Nate Hochman, was fired last week. A Monday report by Semafor found that other DeSantis campaign staffers, including rapid response director Christina Pushaw, workshopped the video in a chat group (although at the time of the messages reviewed by Semafor, the video did not yet feature the Nazi symbol).

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