Gov. DeSantis partly to blame for COVID variants by making it 'wedge issue,' Miami Beach mayor suggests

Florida Democrats blame DeSantis for COVID surge

Fox News contributor James Freeman challenges the Miami Beach, Florida mayor for claiming Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has handled the coronavirus pandemic poorly.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was on the receiving end of more vitriol on liberal news networks over the weekend when Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber accused the Republican of trying to divide the public over COVID-19.

Gelber suggested that while the governor showed “pretty good” bipartisan leadership at the beginning of the pandemic, he’s turned the health crisis into a “wedge issue.”

“And then he just realized there was a political opportunity if he made this about some supposed freedom,” Gelber said Sunday on CNN. “Which, of course, it’s not. We require vaccines for kids in school. We require people to do things that don’t endanger their neighbors or strangers even.” 

Gov. Ron DeSantis takes part in a roundtable discussion about the uprising in Cuba at the American Museum of the Cuba Diaspora on July 13, 2021, in Miami, Florida.
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Gelber took particular issue with DeSantis’s campaign website for selling beer koozies poking fun at Dr. Anthony Fauci. It is a “contributing factor to the crisis” when leaders like DeSantis turn it “political,” the mayor alleged.

“He has made this a wedge issue,” Gelber continued. “And in a health care crisis, when you make something a wedge issue and you divide the public so that half the public does one thing and half the public does the other, you get what we’re getting right now, which is variants still coming, people still getting sick, and this disease still with us.”

“That’s really the tragedy within this tragedy,” he concluded. 

Some social media users admitted their confusion as to how DeSantis could be directly responsible for the additional variants of the coronavirus.

Ron DeSantis holds a rally in Orlando, Florida, while running for governor on Nov. 5, 2018.
(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Twitchy editor Greg Pollowitz noted that Gelber didn’t have as much criticism for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who was photographed maskless at a Miami drag bar over the weekend.

Gelber’s comments came after he previously accused the governor of trying to “champion” not taking the vaccine.

“But right now when it comes to this, for whatever reason, our governor and legislature have decided that they’re going to champion not taking the [vaccine] rather than urging people to take the [vaccine],” Gelber said.

Travelers wait in a check-in line at Miami International Airport, Monday, Dec. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) 

Other Florida Democrats like Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said over the weekend that citizens should be “outraged” that DeSantis wasn’t being more transparent and getting in front of the cameras to provide health updates. The governor’s office hit back to say even though DeSantis doesn’t have daily public events that doesn’t mean he isn’t working to combat the virus.

The media has also used DeSantis as a punching bag throughout the pandemic for refusing to enforce restrictive mandates that echoed those of his liberal counterparts. CNN’s Jim Acosta suggested the delta variant instead be called the “DeSantis variant” last year. In contrast, Acosta’s coverage of COVID spikes in blue states was noticeably more muted.

The Miami Herald similarly blamed DeSantis on Friday for acting “selfishly” on the omicron variant and “peddling treatment over prevention.”

“Omicron is what happens when we act selfishly and reject that we’re interconnected with the rest of the world in our common humanity,” columnist Fabiola Santiago wrote.

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