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DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw Talks Florida, Freedom, and Fighting Back

If you’re following what’s going on in Florida with Gov. Ron DeSantis — and who isn’t? — you’re probably familiar with Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’s press secretary. She’s a bold spokesperson for the governor’s agenda, and it’s fun to watch her fight back against the left’s narratives on Twitter.

I had the pleasure of interviewing her on Monday afternoon, and she and I talked about what’s going on in Florida, why some states seem to gravitate toward freedom, and how conservatives can combat the left. I hope you enjoy reading our conversation as much as I enjoyed speaking with her.

Note: this interview was edited for length and clarity.

Chris Queen: Tell me a little bit about yourself your background, and how you got involved in politics.

Christina Pushaw: Well, I’m from Los Angeles. I grew up there and went to college at USC [University of Southern California] in downtown L.A. So I grew up in a place that’s, I think, the most beautiful state in the United States, but it’s completely been destroyed by one-party, Democrat rule. So I saw that with my own eyes just how the progressive policies can absolutely destroy a state with so much potential, so much wealth, and so many great people, but it’s just been turned into, like, a dystopia basically, because of hard left-wing policies. Growing up and seeing that, I was always kind of interested in politics, but I never really was that engaged in politics until after getting my master’s degree in Washington, D.C.

I actually spent some time working in Eastern Europe. I was a political consultant. I studied international relations. I lived in former Soviet countries like the country of Georgia, and I saw the legacy of Communism as almost similar in a way to growing up in California. Seeing the harm and damage done by this far-left ideology, this dystopia that it became, I think, really solidified my desire to fight against that happening in America as a whole.

How I came to Florida goes back to COVID. Honestly, I lived in between D.C., California, and Eastern Europe during the beginning of the pandemic, and I had not paid a whole lot of attention to Florida until Governor DeSantis emerged as a leader for all governors on standing up to these public health bureaucrats who were trampling on the Constitution and trying to destroy small businesses and the American way of life and civil liberties. And I just thought, “You know, he’s the one standing up to it.”

And it was amazing because Florida being the third biggest state, having such an outsized impact on the country, and getting so much attention, I felt like he got a lot of unfair criticism for the common sense policies that he made. What he was doing really impressed me, so I was following him for a bit. And at the end of 2020, right after the election here and an election I worked on in Eastern Europe at the same time, I came back to the U.S. and thought it was time for me to get involved in politics in my home country. And I decided to do that by writing an article about Governor DeSantis’ pandemic response and getting it published. It ran in Human Events at the beginning of 2021, and it went viral, basically. And so that’s how I got on the radar. And a few months later, I started working in Florida, and the rest is history.

CQ: What’s it like working for a governor who is constantly in the national spotlight?

CP: That’s an interesting question because in my experience, and I work closely with the governor, I see him focused on Florida, I see him focused on doing what’s right for the people of our state. Florida is a large and very diverse state with so many different regions that have different cultures, it almost feels like it’s a bunch of different states in one. It keeps him busy, and there are a lot of challenges in Florida. It’s politically diverse. It was always considered to be the swing state, but now it’s become more conservative, thanks to his leadership.

And yes, as you mentioned, he does get a lot of national attention because he has emerged as a leader. I think that people throughout the country look up to him because of his common-sense leadership on COVID. But now, so many more issues have come up that Florida has been leading on, like Parental Rights in Education, the bill that he signed earlier this year, basically affirming that parents’ rights to direct their kids’ education, upbringing, and health are going to be respected in Florida. It’s up to parents to raise their kids, and we believe in the sanctity of that right, and other states have actually introduced similar reforms to copy that, while others have gone the opposite direction.

That’s just another example of an issue where I think Florida has emerged as a model for the country and Gov. DeSantis, therefore, has emerged as a leader, because he’s not afraid to go against the tide of public opinion if he knows something is right. Mask mandates in schools used to be popular. The issue used to have like 60-70% approval, but Gov. DeSantis signed an executive order last summer before the school year started, saying that parents have the right to choose whether or not their kids wear masks no matter what the school’s policy is. And that did get a lot of backlash from the media, even from some Republicans. We did it and people went along with us, and as soon as the school year started, everything was fine. I think those who had doubted the governor’s decision came to realize that he was correct.

He was the one who was not afraid to stand up and just make that hard decision. That’s what leadership is. And he’s shown it and continues to show it in many ways. So I think the national attention comes from that, and the media is obsessed with him because they know that he doesn’t care about their approval. And neither do I, by extension. I work for him; I don’t work for CNN or Washington Post.

CQ: So many press secretaries are straight-arrow, by-the-book types. You’re cut from a different cloth in that you really don’t care who gets offended as long as you’re getting the message across. Does that make your job easier or more difficult?

CP: That’s a very interesting framing to the question. So I think one of the reasons that I can do the job the way that I do is because of my boss. It’s because Gov. DeSantis gives me and other people on my team the latitude to be creative, to innovate, and to be very direct with the media because as I said, he does not care if he has a negative article written about him in the Washington Post. He takes it as a compliment.

You know, most Americans don’t trust the media. There’s a reason they don’t trust the media: because the media does not have our best interests at heart. So when they’re attacking him, that’s good for him because it shows that he’s not afraid to stand up to the powers that be.

So I think that has emboldened me and my colleagues on the communications team to be more combative, but we never are combative gratuitously. We have to pick our fights carefully. We’re not going to sling personal insults or anything of that nature. And we try to only pick on reporters who have a platform where they’re powerful or have done something intentionally dishonest. If somebody makes a mistake — which I think happens to all of us — I will always try to reach out to that reporter privately and directly to correct their mistake. If they don’t correct it, then I know that they’re doing something on purpose to smear the governor and distort our message. And that’s when I use Twitter to call them out.

I think Gov. DeSantis is a new breed of politician, and that’s why we’re able to be a new breed of communications team.

CQ: It bothers the mainstream media when you take them on. Witness that recent Washington Post article that blasted you for getting on social media to refute media narratives. Why do you think you get under their skin so much?

CP: Because I’m not afraid of them. I’m not afraid to push back when I notice that they lie. And I’m not afraid to call out the biases that they do not want to even admit exist.

Gallup does regular polling of how Americans view the media, and Americans’ trust in media has reached another all-time low. It’s 11% or something like that, and that cuts across parties. Americans realize that the media has a specific agenda, pushes that agenda, and will stop at nothing to destroy people, even private citizens, who go against the agenda.

My issues with the Washington Post have been going on for a while because they’ve gratuitously attacked my boss many times, but it really got more intense in April after Taylor Lorenz wrote to me saying that she’s going to expose the woman behind Libs of Tik Tok, and she’s a private citizen. She’s not a politician or activist or anything of that nature. And so I thought, “You know, that’s not really fair.” And so I responded to that email from Taylor and I told her what I thought of the story, and the next day, another Washington Post reporter reached out to me saying that he was going to do a profile of me, and I didn’t ask for that. And I knew that it was gonna be bad. But I didn’t cooperate.

That’s how the whole dustup with the Washington Post came out, and the way that the reporter justified writing this article, unmasking the girl who’s behind Libs of Tik Tok. They said, “Well, yes, she’s not a politician, but she has helped the state’s administration pass this ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law,” which is not what the law says. Right?

Parents in Florida are overwhelmingly against this racial essentialism and gender indoctrination. So it puts the media on the defense, and it comes down to the fact that we do not accept the framing of the corporate media and we are not going to be on the defensive or defend against things that are based on false premises. We put them on the defensive, I think, with issues like this, and I just gave one example.

And that’s how the governor has been so successful in driving his agenda, pushing it forward, and communicating his agenda, because he doesn’t let the media set the agenda or tell him what to say. He pushes ahead and does what he’s going to do in terms of the agenda that he has in mind for Florida and what Floridians support and what will be good for them.

CQ: Florida has earned a reputation in recent years for being a bastion of freedom. Other states, particularly in the South, are standing up for freedom, too. What do you think it is about these states that makes freedom so important?

CP: Oh, that’s a great question. Speaking for Florida, because I haven’t lived in any other Southern states, but a lot of people who came here specifically moved here from other parts of the country because they know that Florida has been a free state. It goes back to what I was talking about with COVID, with the restrictions being lifted and very early on, civil rights being respected and religious freedom being respected. People were allowed to gather to worship here, for example, when it was possible they would get arrested for that in California. So states like Florida just attracted Americans from all over who actually care about this, who care about the Constitution, who care about civil liberties, who care about living freely. I think last year, Gov. DeSantis called Florida “America’s West Berlin,” and that stuck with me as somebody who has lived in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. And that sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

I will give Georgia credit. They were also very early in terms of fighting back against the lockdown hysteria, the CCP propaganda pushing all these policies and mandates that don’t work. Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia stood up against this. Other Southern states did as well. And it’s a question for the governors of those other states, but I will say that their leadership actually attracted more and more citizens to their states who prioritize freedom and will work to defend it. I think it’s like self-selecting.

In Florida also, the small businesses are very strong here. The restaurant and service industries are really big, and tourism is a pretty big thing. Obviously, it’s a huge part of our economy. And so all of that would have been completely devastated by a lockdown.

CQ: The Parental Rights in Education law got a lot of press early in the year. Families across the country are starting to stand up to the left. Why do you think that’s happening?

CP: I think a lot of Marxist and far-left theories and indoctrination have been seeping into K-12 education. They originated in universities but have been seeping into K-12 education slowly over the last decade or so. And most parents are demanding reforms and demanding accountability and transparency in education. Almost all of them say that they didn’t know how bad it was until remote schooling started in 2020. And they were by their kids’ side, listening in on classes and helping them with their homework and schoolwork. And I think that was an eye opener to a lot of parents who had a chance to see it day in and day out.

There’s so much stuff that is irrelevant to academics being injected into the classroom, but this is political indoctrination, and schools — public school — should never be political. There are some districts where kids are not reading at grade level or doing basic math at grade level, but they are being indoctrinated into this ideology that if they’re white, they must be oppressors and if they’re black, they must be victims of oppression. But young kids are innocent, and that’s something that they will take literally and it will stay with them their whole lives and cause huge psychological harm.

That has woken up a lot of parents who feel that they should be the final authority over important decisions about their kids’ lives. The state or the school district or the government does not own your kids. I can’t believe it even has to be said.

Parental Rights in Education is very common-sense legislation. What it says is that kids in grades kindergarten through third — so, age nine and younger — cannot be taught about gender identity and sexual orientation in school. I don’t know how that could be controversial. In the last few years, this has become a big problem to the point that we need a law to stop it and prevent it going forward. And so, I think the controversy over this common-sense and uncontroversial legislation shows why the law was needed.

CQ: We’ve seen a lot of conservative victories in 2022. We’ve seen the things going on in Florida. Here in Georgia, we’ve had a lot of legislative victory. The Dobbs decision was a big deal. Why is it important for conservatives to keep fighting back?

CP: Because the left never stops. Yes, we’ve had huge victories, but it’s really just the beginning. These great Supreme Court decisions, they’re returning power to the states, right? They’re not making our laws for us. They’re empowering state legislatures and governors to enact laws that are right for their state. So in some ways, you know, the fight is only beginning, but we have to keep fighting.

Look at the Biden administration; look at the ways that they have tried to overstep the rule of law to force through things like vaccine mandates and what they call gender-affirming care. It’s really child experimentation, experimenting on children with drugs and surgeries that can make them unable to ever have kids and have lifelong medical impacts, making them into a patient or life. And to me, this is absolutely unthinkable. It would have been unthinkable even a few years ago that anyone would suggest that this is a good idea. In certain European countries, this has been going on for a long time. They’re now pulling back because they’re seeing the long-term effects. These are very liberal and progressive countries, and they’re saying, “Enough. We need to put some safeguards in place.” This has gotten out of control. Kids are having regrets. They’re de-transitioning.

And so that’s why we need to keep fighting, because they will keep doing this. And they will keep creatively trying to shoehorn in their ideology, which most Americans and certainly most Floridians do not agree with. And a lot of people also don’t know how bad it’s getting. They don’t know what’s going on. But the more I’ve learned, the more motivated I am to fight back.

CQ: What’s your advice for conservatives who want to fight back against the left but don’t know how or don’t feel confident enough?

CP: For conservative political leaders, politicians, and candidates, I would just say: don’t pay attention to the mainstream media. Don’t give them the time of day if they write something bad about you. Take it as a compliment. And that’s really how our movement is going to progress: if we stop looking at the media as some entity that we need approval from. You don’t. We need to remember we’re serving our constituents, and they do not care what the Washington Post says. They care what you’re doing for them.

In terms of everyday Americans, it’s harder to say, because I can sympathize with those who are afraid because corporations have become so woke. If you’re working at a normal job at a big company, with DEI and ESG and all of these woke ideologies at the top, then you do run the risk of losing your job or being fired or blacklisted just for having conservative or even moderate views. And that’s fundamentally wrong.

But it’s a fact of life, unfortunately, for so many Americans. And so, I don’t want to say that they shouldn’t care, because it’s about putting food on the table. It’s about their livelihood. But I do think if you’re in that situation, the best thing you can do is vote for leaders who are against ESG. Anyone who’s concerned about this should be advocating with their state legislators — not just members of Congress, but those who represent them at the state level and their governor, because the states have such a huge impact on your day-to-day life. Oftentimes state reps maybe get less communication from constituents than a congressman does. But state legislators might even be more willing to meet with you and have more free time to address you. If constituents are raising concerns with their reps, then that’s where the change will start.

Don’t forget about local races. We talked a lot about schools and education. I think school board races kind of flew under the radar for a lot of conservatives. They’re nonpartisan races in a lot of states, so we might have voted for somebody who seems nice but didn’t know that they’re far left. Research the candidates very carefully. Get involved to the extent you can with organizations like Moms for Liberty and other groups. There are grassroots groups sprouting up everywhere in the country. It seems like parents who might have been apolitical for most of their lives but, just after learning about things going on in their local school districts, decided to get together and advocate for greater parental involvement, and that is a good pathway to saving our country. Honestly, it really starts in your own backyard.

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