Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a sulfurous critic of the news media, has all but shunned one-on-one interviews with mainstream political reporters, speaking almost exclusively in recent months with friendly conservative pundits.
But he has finally granted an interview to a major establishment newspaper — just not one in the United States.
Mr. DeSantis’s face is on the cover of Thursday’s edition of The Times of London, whose American correspondent recently conducted an extensive interview with the governor at the Republican Party’s headquarters in Tallahassee. “The Man Who Might be President,” reads the headline.
Presumably, few Republican primary voters reside in Britain. But The Times of London, one of England’s oldest and most respected papers, is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire has already thrown its considerable influence behind the prospect of a DeSantis presidential bid.
The governor appears to be returning the favor.
As he kicks off a promotional tour for his new memoir (published by Mr. Murdoch’s HarperCollins), Mr. DeSantis took Salena Zito, a conservative columnist at The New York Post (owned by Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp), on a tour of his hometown in Florida, and he appeared on Fox News (owned by Mr. Murdoch’s Fox Corp) for interviews with Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Jesse Watters, and the co-hosts of “Fox & Friends.” Excerpts from his memoir appeared in The Post and on FoxNews.com.
By contrast, Mr. DeSantis’s press secretary recently said that the governor would not engage at all with journalists at NBC News or MSNBC. The DeSantis camp cited its frustration with an imprecise question asked by the NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell about Mr. DeSantis’s restrictions on how racism is taught in Florida public schools. (Ms. Mitchell later offered a clarification.)
Mr. DeSantis, however, has not given carte blanche to employees of Mr. Murdoch. While the governor is willing to appear with Fox News’s conservative hosts, he has not been interviewed recently by Bret Baier, Fox News’s chief political anchor, or Shannon Bream, host of “Fox News Sunday,” anchors who would be more inclined to ask him tough questions.
Mr. DeSantis’s presence in Murdoch-controlled news outlets comes as his prospective rival for the Republican nomination, former President Donald J. Trump, has seemed to vanish from the same media properties. Mr. Trump has not appeared on a Fox News broadcast since declaring his candidacy in November, although Fox News’s website has published interviews with him.
The Post, whose coverage is often viewed as a distillation of Mr. Murdoch’s id, took direct aim at Mr. Trump when he announced his presidential run, relegating the news to the mocking headline, “Florida Man Makes Announcement.” And after last year’s midterm elections, The Post featured Mr. DeSantis on its front page with the admiring headline, “DeFUTURE.”
Mr. Trump has expressed displeasure with the situation, deriding Ms. Zito’s interview with Mr. DeSantis as a “puff piece” and calling The Post a “dying” publication, a far cry from his warm attitude toward the tabloid in the past. In a post on Truth Social, his right-wing social network, Mr. Trump combined three Murdoch media properties into a single insult: “I don’t read the New York Post anymore. It has become Fake News, just like Fox & WSJ!”
Mr. DeSantis’s interview in The Times of London was conducted by David Charter, the newspaper’s U.S. editor, a veteran foreign correspondent who is viewed as a straight ahead journalist and not an opinionated pundit.
The two-page spread appears under a splashy quote rendered in British spelling: “Ron DeSantis: ‘Don’t we need a little more vigour and punch?’”
The article is presented as a feature, observing at one point that Mr. DeSantis has “a firm handshake and a neat crop of chestnut hair.” In the interview, Mr. DeSantis muses about a golf vacation with his wife to Scotland and Northern Ireland. He calls himself a “big supporter” of Brexit, although he offered a light critique of Britain’s pro-Brexit Conservative Party, saying the party “hasn’t been as aggressive at fulfilling that vision as they should have been.”
Asked if he wrote his memoir because he wants to be president, Mr. DeSantis demurred: “What I would say is, I was well known. I was, you know, kind of a hot commodity. And I thought that the book would do well, I think it is doing well. I think you’re gonna see it’s going to do very well. We’ve had a great, great response.”
Despite the seemingly cordial tone of the interview, Mr. DeSantis at one point became irritated with his interlocutor.
Mr. Charter writes that when he asked Mr. DeSantis how he would handle American relations with Ukraine, the governor referred “to Biden being ‘weak on the world stage’ and failing at deterrence.”
Mr. Charter pressed for more detail: How would a President DeSantis handle the conflict in Ukraine?
“Perhaps you should cover some other ground?” the governor replied. “I think I’ve said enough.”