Ron DeSantis’s new COVID strategy is to be a total asshole to teens

High schoolers wearing masks are hugely offensive to the Florida governor, apparently.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is a man of strong principles. Principally, he’s a man who is very interested in looking strong — often at the expense of any number of other, more desirable attributes like “smart” or “thoughtful” or “not an asshole.”

Well, sir. Mission accomplished! You’re a big strong man, indeed.

DeSantis demonstrated his big-strong-man-ness this week, as he stepped up to the rostrum at a University of South Florida event where he was ostensibly on hand to discuss a new $20 million investment in cybersecurity education for his state. And because this was an event focused on education, there were kids there — high school kids, in fact — to offer a fresh-faced background for DeSantis’s announcement. And because we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, many of those children were wearing face masks, as recommended by the CDC for areas with “high” COVID community levels — such as Tampa, where USF is located. And because DeSantis has essentially staked his personal and professional reputation on defying medical advice, this was evidently a bridge too far for him. And because this is Ron DeSantis we’re talking about here, he had to be as big a prick about the whole thing as humanly possible.

“You do not have to wear those masks,” DeSantis scolded the — again — high schoolers before beginning his remarks. “I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything, and we’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”

Mm, yes, if there’s one thing Ron DeSantis is known for, it’s his opposition to COVID theater. I mean, truly, nothing screams “we’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater” quite like arriving at a staged press event and yelling at a group of children about COVID. This is a big brain at work, folks.

Later at the same event, DeSantis decried the federal government’s focus on his state’s abysmal COVID response as “dipping their nose into Florida’s business,” which is an incredible turn of phrase for someone who minutes earlier had scolded a bunch of children for not having their noses out to dip into other people’s business.

Despite (or, more likely because of) his tendency toward unapologetic asshole-ness, DeSantis is largely considered one of the GOP frontrunners for the 2024 presidential nomination, should fellow anti-mask Florida man Donald Trump decide to embrace his position as the Sunshine State’s premier racist retiree and sit this one out.