Newsom and DeSantis Clash on Fox

By Justin Milton

December 20, 2023

I wouldn’t consider Fox News a politically neutral source. They have been successfully sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems for pushing false claims of election fraud, along with pedaling many other conspiracy theories. As a result I consider them in many ways more of a comedic channel than real news when it comes to politics and culture. When I heard about this debate though, I made an exception with avoiding Fox News because there were two sides instead of just one. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gavin Newsom of California had agreed to debate at a Fox Newsroom in Atlanta, Georgia. This was an unusual event because neither were fighting for dominance in a campaign directly. Instead it was about boosting their national profile overall and explaining their policy differences.

On November 30th I listened in on the debate at 6pm (9pm EST). Their opening statements  roasted each other while laying out their general argument. Newsom arguably had the best roast to bring DeSantis to his level, “There’s one thing that we have in common. Neither of us will be the nominee for our party in 2024.” DeSantis is running for the GOP nomination, falling far behind Trump who is consistently polling with a majority of the vote in the primary. He won reelection last year with nearly 60% of the vote, pulling Florida further to the right. Newsom isn’t challenging Biden, but he is widely seen as a rising figure in the Democratic Party. He won reelection last year as well with over 60% of the vote. Both DeSantis and Newsom are term limited and will leave office in 2027.

The first issue they discussed was the economy, and later the handling of COVID. Fox presented figures showing different tax rates for the states. The main points brought up by Newsom were the strength of California’s economy and making the upper class pay more in taxes. DeSantis mentioned the effect on families, including how expensive gas is in California and how higher taxes burden the working class. The debate quickly turned chaotic, as both sides clashed and interrupted each other instead of taking turns. Fox host Hannity was only occasionally successful at breaking this pattern through the rest of the debate.

During the next part they clashed on the border and immigration, then on whether Newsom supports Biden’s policies and state issues. Newsom argued in general support for Biden and against Florida’s book bans while DeSantis blasted conditions at the border and California’s homeless crisis. A misleading chart was used here, which showed the number of foreign nationals intercepted at the border from different nations. The chart didn’t only fail to compare this to when Trump was in office, but by showing foreign advisory nationalities suggested these people are dangerous by default and are here to cause trouble. Both interrupted each other to have their offense heard over the other, and when it came down to defense Newsom dodged questions about the homeless crisis and DeSantis denied the scope of book bans.

By the second break I called it quits; most of the debate was pointless with difficulty at times hearing either of them. Instead of a real debate, they willingly let it turn into a shouting match where neither was given much of a fair shot at the other. On top of that, as a right-leaning channel, Fox had a clear bias and at times 2 vs 1 line up with Hannity giving DeSantis an edge, which I expected but was still disappointed by. Overall, the debate was more like a clash, yielding little with two prominent politicians pulling their tricks on each other.