Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the “national regime media” wanted Hurricane Ian to cause maximum devastation in Florida to advance a “political agenda.”
DeSantis made the remarks during an interview in Cape Coral with the conservative news website Florida’s Voice, which the outlet shared in a video clip posted to YouTube on Tuesday. The site’s editor-in-chief Brendon Leslie asked the governor whether there would be any “accountability” for forecasts incorrectly predicting that the hurricane would hit Tampa Bay, prompting him to claim the media had been hoping for more destruction than what occurred in the state.
“You have national regime media, that they wanted to see Tampa [get hit], because they thought that would be worse for Florida,” said DeSantis. “That’s how these people think. I mean, they don’t care about the people of this state. They don’t care about the people of this community. They want to use storms and destruction from storms as a way to advance their agenda.”
“And they don’t care what destruction’s in their wake,” he added. “They don’t care about the lives here. If they can use it to pursue their political agenda, they will do it.”
DeSantis went on to say that he “absolutely” thought that media focus on early forecasts predicting that the hurricane would strike Tampa caused people in southwest Florida’s Lee County, where Ian actually made landfall last Wednesday, to lower their guards.
The governor did not provide any additional details on the alleged political motivations and “agenda” of the media concerning weather, nor did he elaborate on the meaning of the phrase “national regime media.”
Earlier in the interview, Leslie told DeSantis that the media was “trying to politicize everything” concerning the hurricane and accused journalists of “flat-out lying” about the timing of evacuation orders being issued in Lee County, around 125 miles south of Tampa Bay.
DeSantis has been facing criticism over the Lee County evacuation, which University of Miami hurricane and climatology expert Brian McNoldy called “botched,” due to the evacuation order being issued in a “high-risk area” less than 24 hours before Ian was expected to hit land.
The governor said that storm models used by Florida’s emergency management officials had shifted overnight. He said that the quickly changing models did result in a late shift to the focus of the state’s hurricane response, with more attention being paid to Lee County at the last minute.
“Tuesday morning … most of our assets were in the Tampa Bay area,” said DeSantis. “As we saw it shift first thing Tuesday morning in the overnight models, we started shifting down. But at the end of the day, you had models that had the storm going in a much different path.”
At least 108 deaths related to Hurricane Ian have been recorded in the U.S. as of Tuesday, including 104 in Florida and four in North Carolina, according to CBS News.
The hurricane may also become one of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history, with the estimated cost of repairs in Florida alone expected to be as much as $47 billion.
Newsweek has reached out to DeSantis’ office for comment.