Virginia’s Youngkin gets the DeSantis treatment from media

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks to supporters and potential voters during a meet and greet at Manassas Park Community Center in Manassas, Va., on Saturday, October 30, 2021.
Greg Nash

He hasn’t been in office for even a week, but Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is already getting the same treatment from some corners of the media that his Republican counterpart in Florida regularly attracts.

“So much for the silly narrative that Youngkin was some normal R,” wrote Washington Post columnist Jen Rubin to her nearly 650,000 Twitter followers. “As @TerryMcAuliffe predicted, he’s brought DeSantis anti-mask nuttery to VA. Now at war with several school districts. He’s only been in office a few days. Hey, VA this is what you voted for. Best of luck.”

Gov. Youngkin is already proving himself to be a “Trump in fleece clothing,” lamented Monthly magazine contributing editor Anne Kim. “This is not my Virginia.”

“What makes @GlennYoungkin different from other GOP govs who’ve banned mask mandates is the timing — amid the most infectious variant yet, as record numbers of kids are being hospitalized and staffing shortages are crippling schools,” argued NBC’s Heidi Przybyla.

“Hi there. Arlington county parent here (don’t believe you are @GlennYoungkin but correct me if I am wrong). Thank you to @APSVirginia for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant,” wrote White House press secretary Jen Psaki to Youngkin.

And despite Virginia exit polls showing that just one in 10 parents say parents should have little or no say over what schools teach, we get headlines like this one from a Washington Post opinion piece, “In catering to selfish parents, Youngkin is failing Virginia’s kids.”

To kick off his first week in office, Youngkin, through executive orders, is simply carrying out his campaign promises, including: listening to parents and allowing them to have a say in education; banning the teaching of critical race theory in schools; declaring that children should be in school, in-person, five days a week.

And if parents choose to mask their children or not mask them, it should be their choice. If Psaki wants to mask her children, that’s fine. If another parent doesn’t want to mask their child, that’s fine too. Look at the science and data: Dozens of studies have shown that schools are safer than almost any other public facility, and most children who contract COVID-19 are not at risk of experiencing serious health issues.

During his inaugural address, Youngkin also declared his intention to eliminate the Commonwealth’s sales tax on groceries. He also called for more aid for local police departments. And in an attempt to unify, he also wants to increase teacher pay – which progressives are pushing – and reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.  

Agree or disagree with Youngkin, he’s governing as he campaigned. But some corners of the press simply aren’t happy about him sticking to his guns.

“Republicans love to say Youngkin is the example of a new Republican. What does he do first. – encourages kids to go to school without a mask. Kids will die. See, same old Republican,” wrote CNN’s Joe Lockhart, a former press secretary for President Clinton.

“But at least white and suburban parents can rest easy knowing their infected child won’t be reading Toni Morrison novels,” Daily Beat columnist Wajahat Ali tweeted. “White supremacy… self destructive as always.”

The unhinged vitriol is not unlike the treatment of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has also been accused of killing residents of his state. Youngkin and DeSantis have a similar perspective on education (DeSantis also opposes mask mandates and the teaching of critical race theory in schools) and on learning to live with COVID-19 instead of locking down from it. That has resulted in DeSantis attracting lots of negative national attention.

“Florida now has America’s lowest COVID rate. Does Ron DeSantis deserve credit? One # to consider when answering that question. Nearly as many Floridians (21K) have died in the last 4 months as in *all* of 2020 (23K) — even though we have vaccines now,” a Yahoo News national correspondent reported, without mentioning that the U.S. as a whole had more deaths in 2021 with vaccines than in 2020 without them.

“To reiterate: it’s about to be ILLEGAL IN FLORIDA TO MAKE WHITE PEOPLE SAD. Fix it Jesus! Are they gonna arrest comedians who tell jokes that hurt white patrons’ feelings? Let white Floridians sue screenwriters who write white villains? Will there be book and movie bans?? Unreal!” MSNBC primetime host Joy Reid wrote.

“I have studied Hitler and how he got to power,” Florida gubernatorial challenger Nikki Fried shared during a recent interview when asked if she was comparing arguably the worst mass murderer in human history to the sitting governor of the Sunshine State.

You get the idea. If you’re Youngkin or DeSantis, because of the letter R next to your name, you become a target of some of the most hyperbolic and reckless rhetoric and reporting out there.

But if you’re, say, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) or Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.), only a fraction of the same hostility and scrutiny applies despite multiple controversies in your state.  

Funny how that works.

Either way, the governors of Virginia and Florida aren’t going away soon. They may even contend for the Oval Office one day. And perhaps that prospect is what’s really fueling these attacks against them.

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.

Tags Face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic Gavin Newsom Glenn Youngkin Gretchen Whitmer Jen Psaki Jen Psaki Ron DeSantis

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