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DeSantis Calls Book Bans a Hoax, Brags About Banning Books

DeSantis Calls Book Bans a Hoax, Brags About Banning Books

Ron DeSantis

The Republican governor of Florida really did that.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called accusations his administration banned books a “hoax.” However, he started a Wednesday press conference with a video spotlighting books his administration had indeed banned.

“A lot of what's been going on is an attempt to create a political narrative. And it's a false political narrative,” the Republican governor said. “That's bad enough as it is, I guess, but for me, the important thing is, that's a false narrative in service of using our schools for indoctrination rather than education.”

He then proceeded to defend the removal of books from public school libraries for including graphic sexual imagery, but also for using terms like “LGBTQ” and “trans.”

A six-minute video also shared on social media by DeSantis’ communications staff showcased many of the books that have been pulled from schools in recent months.

One graphic novel, Mike Curato’s Flamer, was pulled from libraries in six Florida school districts. A narrator in the video spotlights a drawing of a land mass. “The camp the boys goes go to in the book has an island that the book says looks like a frying pan but we’re all certain it looks like a cock and balls,” the narrator explains, quoting the book but bleeping out the word cock.

The video also takes issue with a shower scene where a boy has an erection, and another where characters masturbate into a bottle together.

The administration also continues criticism of a sex education book recently taken off Broward County shelves, Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan’s Let’s Talk About It. Drawings from that book prompted many television stations to reportedly cut away from covering the press conference live.

Similarly, the video also included sexually explicit illustrations in Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer. The 239-page graphic novel is based on Kobabe’s experience as a nonbinary person. Kobabe has said that the book was written to help others understand that a lot of people can struggle with their gender identity. Kobabe last year was among The Advocate’s People of the Year, and Gender Queer was the most banned book in America last year, according to the New York Times.

While those books all contained some imagery bound to spur objection, the video released by the DeSantis administration also included several books deemed to be political indoctrination.

Those included Innosanto Nagara’s A is for Activist. The alphabet book’s sins, in the eyes of the DeSantis administration, included pages that declared “L is for L-G-B-T-Q,” “T is for Trans” and “Z is for Zapitista, a far-left Mexican terrorist group,” the video said.

The video also spotlighted Anastasia Higgenbotham’s Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness, that the administration said violates a ban on critical race theory in Florida schools.

DeSantis defended recent Florida laws including the “Stop WOKE Act,” which prohibits instruction on race relations that implies individuals’ status is determined by their race, color, national origin or sex.

“We're not going to teach our kids that they are inherently racist on the basis of their race, or color, natural origin,” DeSantis said. “Does anyone think the babies are born racist? I don't think so.”

If all this sounds a lot like defending the banning of content instead of proving the accusations to be a hoax, the administration also pushed back on bad headlines from recent months. Video went viral after a teacher in Jacksonville filmed school shelves that were emptied as school officials re-evaluated if every book met new state standards; the teacher has since been fired. DeSantis said the removal of all books was not necessary to conduct a review.

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz also took issue with national reports that districts banned books about Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron because the biographies included that the historic athletes faced racism in their careers. Diaz said when the administration called districts about why those books had been challenged, the schools immediately put them back on shelves.

The challenges, though, have occurred thanks to changes in state law allowing any member of the public to question educational materials in schools, even if they have no connection to the school.

Much of the press event included pushback on accusations the state had wrongly challenged the curriculum of an Advanced Placement course on Black History. DeSantis said education officials were right to do that because it included queer theory.

“They put that in this in this course. And this is the quote from one of the readings there, ‘We have to encourage and develop practices whereby queerness isn't surrender to the status quo of race, class, gender and sexuality. It means building forms of queerness that reject the given realities of the government and the market,” DeSantis said. “And I'm just thinking to myself, you know, why are we talking about Frederick Douglass?”

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