Florida Republicans are urging the Miami Herald to take action against metro columnist Fabiola Santiago, who tweeted on Sunday that Florida residents packing beaches “should work nicely to thin the ranks” of supporters of President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
On Sunday, Santiago specifically tweeted that “packed beaches should work nicely to thin the ranks of Trump/DeSantis/Gimenez supporters in #Florida who value money over health.”
Hours later, Santiago deleted the tweet and issued an apology, saying her remarks “didn’t accurately convey my sentiment… Regardless of political differences, I would never wish any harm on anyone.”
Her apology came after strong condemnation from prominent Trump supporters and coverage of her remarks by independent news media outlets, including an article at Breitbart News and coverage on Fox News.
Responding directly to condemnation from the Republican Party of Florida, Mindy Marques, publisher and executive editor of the Miami Herald, issued an apology on Twitter and said the newspaper would “follow up internally.”
While columnists, unlike reporters, have broad latitude to express their opinions, the comment by @fabiolasantiago earlier today crossed the line of acceptable commentary and does not reflect the views of the @MiamiHerald. We apologize and will follow up internally. @FloridaGOP
— Mindy Marques (@MindyMarques) April 20, 2020
Marques’ response was not enough for the Florida GOP, which retorted that while the party appreciates the condemnation the newspaper should go so far as to “#FireFabiola,” using Santiago’s first name.
.@FabiolaSantiago clearly wished for the deaths of Trump, DeSantis, and Gimenez supporters. While we appreciate @MiamiHerald condemning her words, this rhetoric is unacceptable, especially coming from the media. The Miami Herald must deal with this appropriately. #FireFabiola pic.twitter.com/l7OXg0HQtA
— Florida GOP (@FloridaGOP) April 20, 2020
Rep. Michael Waltz used the hashtag #FireFabiola while saying it was “downright disgusting” for the Miami Herald to give Santiago a platform.
.@MiamiHerald should be ashamed.
We’ve long known that .@fabiolasantiago is a Castro apologist, but that they would give her a platform to wish death on those who disagree with her political views is downright disgusting. #FireFabiola .@realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/1GlDcq12ZO
— Michael Waltz (@michaelgwaltz) April 20, 2020
State Representative Ana Maria Rodriguez also demanded Santiago’s ouster from the newspaper.
The @MiamiHerald should cut ties with Fabiola Santiago. her despicable suggestion that COVID should kill @realDonaldTrump supporters is offensive and wrong. This kind of thinking deserves no public platform. She's an intelligent adult, she knew what she was saying.
— Ana Maria Rodriguez (@RepAnaMaria) April 20, 2020
Todd Chase, a Republican candidate for Congress, further promoted the #FireFabiola hashtag.
I spent 26 years in the Navy defending our freedoms, so I don’t fault @fabiolasantiago for exercising her 1st Amendment right to be an ass. But the @MiamiHerald should think long and hard about who they have representing them. @realDonaldTrump #firefabiola pic.twitter.com/0AiQB8xcDK
— Todd Chase For Congress (@chaseforflorida) April 20, 2020
Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva said Santiago’s comments represent a “stain” upon the newspaper “and the actual professionals who work there.”
"Fabiola Santiago shed the often thin veil of impartiality long ago. Now, she reduces herself further by openly wishing for the death of those Floridians who don't share her views. It is a stain upon the @MiamiHerald and the actual professionals who work there…1/2
— Jose Oliva (@RepJoseOliva) April 20, 2020
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a frequent guest on Fox News, called the columnist’s tweet a “vile example of media hatred.”
A vile example of media hatred from just hours ago: @fabiolasantiago, a columnist with the @MiamiHerald, tweeting essentially it would "work nicely" if crowded Florida beaches resulted in the deaths of @realDonaldTrump and @GovRonDeSantis supporters.https://t.co/LpLiNKT78S pic.twitter.com/B1paRPSLRe
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) April 20, 2020
State Representative James Grant slammed Santiago’s tweet:
It’s not that @fabiolasantiago has an opinion or that she expressed her opinion. It’s that her opinion expressed excitement for the death of those who disagree with her politics.
— James Grant (@JamesGrantFL) April 20, 2020
Donald Trump Jr. commented that Santiago’s “disgusting” remarks not only expose her own bias but “based on their hiring choices” likely tells readers “everything you need to know about the Miami Herald as well.”
This tweet from a Miami Herald columnist tells you all you need to know about her, and based on their hiring choices, likely everything you need to know about the Miami Herald as well. Their flagrant bias continues to go on unchecked. Disgusting. https://t.co/FOmn5zxnaK
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 19, 2020
Asked for comment, a spokesperson for The Miami Herald referred Breitbart News to Marques’ Twitter apology and statement that the newspaper would “follow up internally.”
Some of Santiago’s critics pointed out that the columnist had nothing to say about the decision by three Democratic governors — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont – to reopen marinas and boatyards also under social distancing rules.
Others noted the lack of criticism about Manhattan’s Central Park still being open to the public while visitor centers and playgrounds have been closed until further notice. People magazine recently published photographs showing crowds in Central Park clearly breaking the “six feet apart” guidelines, with many not wearing face masks.
Central Park Still Crowded with People Despite Stay at Home and Social Distancing Orders in NYC https://t.co/dfJSAdmQsf
— People (@people) April 6, 2020
On Friday, DeSantis gave local municipalities the green-light to decide whether to reopen their beaches only if it can be done safely and under strict social distancing guidelines.
Some north Florida beaches reopened while many in central and south Florida remain closed.
Newly reopened Jacksonville Beach only allows “essential activities” which include “recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.”
Beach-goers cannot sunbathe or bring towels, blankets or beach chairs. The beaches reportedly don’t allow “lingering on the beach without moving” or gatherings of more than 10 people.
Santiago’s controversial tweet embedded a Miami Herald article sensationally titled, “Packed Florida beach offers glimpse of what may come when outdoor spaces are reopened.”
The Herald story included two images of scores of people walking on the beach, but it was not clear from the pictures whether those photographed were violating the social distancing rules. The closeup images seem to show people keeping distance but those who can be seen were not wearing masks or other face coverings. The story itself does not report that anyone violated social distancing rules.
At Friday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force’s briefing, Dr. Deborah Birx, Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, was asked about the beach reopenings in Florida. Reporters did not similarly bring up the marina and boatyard reopenings in harder-hit New Jersey, New York and Connecticut or Manhattan’s continued opening of Central Park to the general public.
“If the county health directors believe that that’s appropriate for their county, then I’m not going to second judge an individual’s approach to this,” Birx said of the Florida beach news.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow.