TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw, who during 15-months in that post transformed the governor’s state messaging office into a hyper-partisan extension of his political efforts, is joining DeSantis’ reelection campaign.
Pushaw, who will serve as the campaign’s rapid response director, has received national attention for her aggressive style that is unorthodox for a taxpayer-funded press secretary. She used the position to regularly pick public fights with reporters on social media, amplify right-wing media outlets and conservative personalities and attack individuals who oppose or challenge DeSantis.
She has made the governor’s press operation adversarial to what she calls “legacy media,” which includes many outlets that are perceived as critical to DeSantis.
“You gave me the latitude to respond to media narratives in direct and often unconventional ways, allowing me to redefine the role for a leaders whose actions speak for themselves,” Pushaw wrote Friday in her resignation letter to DeSantis chief of staff James Uthmeier and Dawn Hanson, the governor’s office director of administration. “I am proud to have been part of a team that has helped Floridians through historic challenges, and continue to deliver results that make life better for the people of our great state.”
Her two-page resignation letter includes a series of bullet points outlining administration accomplishments that she has helped elevate nationally, a move that coincides with DeSantis’ rise among many in the GOP base — who have dubbed him “America’s Governor.” She touted re-opening the state’s economy quicker than other states during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the wave of education-focused culture war issues such as “empowering parents” and “upholding the rule of law.”
Pushaw’s position as press secretary was taxpayer-funded and part of DeSantis’ state office but has long been perceived as much more political in nature, something that her long line of critics were quick to point out as she brought in a $120,000 taxpayer funded salary.
She has increasingly been the subject of national media profiles and has helped put DeSantis as on the vanguard of the new Republican Party’s sidestepping mainstream media outlets, including last month blocking most non right-wing outlets from covering the Republican Party of Florida’s annual convention in Hollywood, Fla..
That same weekend, reporters were welcomed to cover a Tampa convention hosted by conservative group Turning Point USA, a nod to the fact Florida Republicans have so far been more aggressive in their war with members of the media than other conservative organizations.
“It has come to my attention that some liberal media activists are mad because they aren’t allowed into #SunshineSummit this weekend,” Pushaw tweeted at the time. “My message to them is to try crying about it.”
Just this week, Pushaw took to Twitter to blast the Associated Press for not including the entirety of a statement she offered about a DeSantis-championed controversial education bill. It has long been common practice for media outlets to use relevant portions of statements and are not bound to print them in their entirety. Shortly after Pushaw criticized the reporter, several right-wing media outlets published stories about the exchange.
“‘Lose my number’: DeSantis spokeswoman slams AP over quote,” blared a headline from the Daily Caller.
Before working for DeSantis, Pushaw served as a media adviser to Mikheil Saakashvili, a former president of Georgia, and later worked in that country’s parliamentary elections. In June, Pushaw belatedly registered as a foreign agent due to her work in Georgia, a move that came after contact from the Justice Department.
In early 2021, she wrote to DeSantis’ office saying she was impressed by the governor and would like to work in the administration. That letter was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
“We’ll miss her in the Governor’s Office, but know she’ll be a wonderful asset on the campaign team,” said Taryn Fenske, the governor’s communications director.
DeSantis’ deputy press secretary, Bryan Griffin, will replace her.
Pushaw highlighted her announcement on Twitter by retweeting a copy of her resignation letter, which was leaked to The Florida Standard, a conservative media outlet that has given the administration favorable coverage.
“Now, the gloves are off,” Pushaw tweeted.