The head of a leading teachers labor union gave a mea culpa on Thursday, one day after she took heat for saying Florida’s governor’s “ignorance” would cause millions to die.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called out Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign for selling merchandise that said “Don’t Fauci my Florida.”
“You are all probably right… I shouldn’t have said millions,” Weingarten said in a tweet on Thursday, after the backlash.
“I should have just said DeSantis was wrong to do this,” she added. “Fauci is an amazing public servant. He shouldn’t be mocked. But I shouldn’t engage in that kind of hyperbole. My bad.”
Weingarten’s original statement came in a Wednesday tweet where she shared a Washington Post article titled “DeSantis sells ‘Don’t Fauci My Florida’ merch as new coronavirus cases near highest in nation.”
DeSantis, a Republican who’s up for re-election next year, is considered to be in the mix for his party’s 2024 presidential nomination. The campaign offered the Fauci merchandise for sale alongside other items including a beverage cooler slip that shows an image of DeSantis offering cheers with a beer bottle with his quote, “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”
“Disgusting,” Weingarten said on Wednesday when she shared the article.
“Millions of Floridians are going to die for Ron DeSantis’ ignorance and he’s choosing to profit from it. He doesn’t care about Floridians; he cares about furthering his own cruel agenda,” she said.
Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in Florida in recent weeks, according to the state’s Department of Health numbers. The positivity rate in Florida jumped from 3.4 percent the week ending June 4 to 7.8 percent the week ending July 2, the data show.
New cases had been on the decline through spring and early June, but climbed from 10,463 to 23,697 from the week ending June 11 to the week ending July 2.
DeSantis has been resistant to COVID-19 restrictions, such as mask mandates. In April, he banned vaccine passports in Florida, a move that has brought the state into conflict with the cruise ship industry, and requirements to show proof of vaccination.
The governor’s press secretary chimed in on the Weingarten situation in a tweet of her own.
“Florida’s COVID death rate is lower than the national average, and unlike the Governor of New York, we don’t fudge the numbers,” she said. “Meanwhile, Randi Weingarten ruined the education of millions of kids by keeping them out of school for more than a year based on a conspiracy theory.”
In a follow-up tweet she said the conspiracy theory was that Florida had underreported COVID cases to protect the DeSantis administration.