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Backroom Briefing: Office Stable under 'Frenetic' Governor

August 23, 2019 - 6:00am
Ron DeSantis and Matt Gaetz
Ron DeSantis and Matt Gaetz

Gov. Ron DeSantis views his office as a stable work environment, even after several staffers, including one of his top lieutenants, announced exit plans a little more than seven months after the chief executive was sworn in.

Appearing in Fort Myers to discuss federal hurricane reimbursement on Monday, DeSantis deflected a question about the pending departure of Deputy Chief of Staff James Blair. Blair’s farewell follows that of several employees who left the governor’s inner circle in June, including external affairs director Justin Caporale and scheduling director Amanda Emmons. Caporale and Emmons worked on DeSantis' gubernatorial campaign, while Blair was a member of the governor's post-election transition team.

“We have great stability,” DeSantis countered. “We have some of the absolute strongest people working in the governor’s office. And it’s been very, very productive. You go in there. You get a lot done. And these things. ... You just want to have the best possible operations, but we’ve got some really, really good people.”

The former congressman and U.S. Navy veteran added that he’s been pleased with the performance of his staff.

“I’ve been very pleased by and large with the folks,” the Republican governor said. “They work very, very hard. I came in and set a very frenetic pace. A lot of people see me bouncing around the state and see I’m doing all this stuff. But they don’t realize sometimes all the run-up that goes into that. If I’m out there 60, 70 hours doing all this stuff, they’re probably doing more than that. And I appreciate that very much.”


During a radio “town hall” in Pensacola Monday, Congressman Matt Gaetz, a heavyweight verbal pugilist, acknowledged he can get carried away at times with “keyboard courage” and called for more online civility. 

“I need to be better on social media. I think we can all be better on social media,” Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, said during an appearance on Newsradio 1620.

The Florida Bar last week chastised Gaetz, a lawyer who has more than 335,000 Twitter followers, for what might have been construed as a threatening tweet directed at Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer who is now serving time in federal prison.

“We have still a lot of opportunity every day to find someone who maybe doesn’t look like you, pray like you, love like you, and to show them they’re a human being too, and you care about them,” Gaetz, a strong ally of Trump, continued. “And the more we do that, I just think it strengthens all the institutions in our society.”

Gaetz didn’t directly address The Florida Bar grievance committee’s strongly worded rebuke, but announced last week on Twitter that the committee found “no probable cause” he violated rules.

But in an Aug. 16 “notice of no probable cause and letter of advice” to Gaetz, the committee made clear it was not pleased with his behavior.

The finding of no probable cause “does not indicate that the committee condones your conduct in this matter,” committee Chairwoman Lacey DeLori Corona wrote.

The grievance committee chided Gaetz for conduct that “was not consistent with the high standards of our profession” which “do not reflect favorably on you as a member of The Florida Bar.”

Gaetz, who attended law school at the College of William & Mary in Virginia and who was admitted to the Bar in 2008, was in hot water over a tweet he posted the night before Cohen was set to testify before Congress in February.

“Hey @MichaelCohen212 --- Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot ...,” Gaetz tweeted.

The congressman later removed the tweet and issued a series of apologies that helped him avoid further action by the committee.

“The grievance committee believes your original tweet was unprofessional, reckless, insensitive, and demonstrated poor judgment. The grievance committee, however, considered all the facts presented, including your prompt withdraw of the tweet, as well as your public and personal apologies to Mr. Cohen, his attorney and the Speaker of the House. The grievance committee also consider Mr. Cohen’s reply to your apology and his willingness to assist you as a mitigating factor,” Corona wrote. 

Democrats and other critics accused Gaetz of engaging in witness tampering.

On Monday, Gaetz said he was holding the town hall in his home district on the radio, rather than in person, at the suggestion of Capitol Police. The congressman said his office has received death threats, and in June, a woman threw a red drink at him as he left an “#OpenGaetz” event at a Pensacola restaurant.

When a caller who's a Trump supporter expressed fear of being “stabbed or blown up” by anti-fascists, Gaetz counseled listeners to recognize “the humanity of people.”

“People who don’t hold our political beliefs or our ideology, that doesn’t make someone a bad person, that doesn’t make them a bad neighbor, it wouldn’t make them a bad ball coach or a scout master,” he said.

TWEET OF THE WEEK: “As protesters clash at far-right rally in Portland, Trump suggests naming Antifa a terrorist group. Only one of these is a terrorist group, @realDonaldTrump. Antifa stands up to hate, misogyny, racism and bigotry.” --- Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe @laurenbpoe).


Thank you Governor DeSantis for doing a great job!

What distinguishes Askew, Graham, Martinez (R), Chiles, and now DeSantis from Jeb! and Scott? The former were all born and raised in Florida and loved it, the latter were a pair of carpet baggers who always put developers first and protection of natural resources last. Whether DeSantis was from Dunedin or Deland or Dundee as long as he continues a pro-environmental path he'll be re-elected. Otherwise, that loud, flushing sound of Trump and Scott going down the toilet might suck him along.

Its about time that these fools are publically admonished for humiliating and unprofessional conduct... Its long overdue that the fool at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. be publicly admonished as well. I guess that will come at the ballot box in

"the fool at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave" left the White House on January 20th 2017. Obozo will long be remembered as not just the fool, but as the stupid fool.

Was he a draft-dodger? Was he a racist? Was he a pathological liar? How about a serial adulterer? Did he kiss dictator's a***s? Did he turn off longtime U.S. allies? Was he a rude, crude, classless b**b towards everyone around him? And - by simple observation - in a comparison - Obama comes across as a highly intelligent person and, in fact, was a very accomplished law school professor before becoming president. Trump comes across as a complete moron - a garbage collector - with a limited, puerile vocabulary, inability to focus, and a basic lack of knowledge and understanding regarding most things - a dense dumbbell!

This is a hilarious comment. Keep it up we all need a good laugh.

This is a hilarious comment. Keep it up we all need a good laugh.

"a very accomplished law school professor" Bwaaa ha ha ha! He was a f'ing lecturer, not a professor. The reality is that Obozo was the absolute worst president ever - a real moronic jackass.

Glad somebody else realized it ! It will be a long time before people will trust another Black President: thanks to Barak Hussein Obama (or whatever his REAL NAME was..)

OK, we get it. You didn't like him. He was Black. Republicans aren't racist. Keep telling each other that.

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