DeSantis Team Hits Back Against Nikki Fried’s Disinformation on School Masking: ‘Pandering to Conspiracy Theorists’

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried speaks to the press on the first day of the 2021 Legislative Session at the Capitol Tuesday, March 2, 2021.
Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) press secretary Christina Pushaw sharply responded Thursday after the state’s Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried (D), a frequent DeSantis critic whom he deemed a “lockdown lobbyist,” appeared on CNN, spreading disinformation on masking in school.

During the appearance, Fried, a potential DeSantis challenger, spoke of her survey of coronavirus data which she said purportedly shows that school districts starting the year with mask requirements saw infection rates three times lower than those without requirements. Fried also accused the DeSantis administration of lying and manipulating data throughout the pandemic:

Pushaw, DeSantis’s press secretary, sharply responded, first noting CNN reached out to the wrong communications person — someone who moved to a new agency five months ago:

Then, she addressed Fried’s assertions directly.

“Commissioner Fried’s ‘3.5 times fewer cases’ remark was the same logically flawed conclusion as the recent CDC study from Arizona; the school dashboard numbers aren’t verified. I understand she claims this is ‘hidden’ Florida data. That is not accurate; it is a misrepresentation of Florida data that she cherry-picked to reach the same conclusion as the AZ study,” Pushaw said, accusing Fried of “pandering to conspiracy theorists who believe, without evidence, that ‘Florida is hiding its COVID-10 data.’”

“In fact, all COVID-19 case data is collected and reported by the Florida Department of Health (DOH), which is not Fried’s agency,” she continued:

Fried is not an epidemiologist or scientist, nor does her department have any responsibility or special access to COVID-19 data. Conducting research on infectious diseases is not the competence of the agriculture commissioner or FDACS. It is surprising if a member of the press would take her at her word as though she is an infectious disease expert.

Pushaw also provided “several serious issues” that she say “any epidemiologist would have been able to point out to Commissioner Fried” if she asked, including the fact that there is “no way of verifying whether an infection was picked up in school or outside of school” in the COVID school dashboard data.

Additionally, she provided DOH data on pediatric cases in different counties, showing “no significant difference between forced masking and mask optional districts on pediatric cases across counties”:

“Fun fact: COVID-19 cases have decreased about 96% statewide since school started in Florida. Rate of decline is the same for mask-optional and forced-masking districts,” Pushaw added:

DeSantis is no stranger to Fried’s criticisms. Over the summer, DeSantis ripped his potential Democrat challenger, describing her as a “lockdown lobbyist.”

“Nikki Fried has done nothing in office. She does nothing. All she does is emote on social media, virtue signal to small-dollar donors in California and New York,” DeSantis said.

“She would have had this business shuttered for the whole year. They would be out of business if Fried were governor. So she’s opposed us at every turn,” he continued:

“I’ve done more, I think, in my first week as governor than she has done in her entire time as agricultural commissioner,” he added, triggering applause.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.