Senior Ron DeSantis campaign aides reportedly oversaw an operation to send meme campaign videos produced by staff members to anonymous Twitter accounts allied with the Florida governor’s presidential campaign, a new report from Semafor has revealed.
The videos, which include an anti-Trump one featuring the Sonnenrad, a symbol associated with Nazi Germany, and another attacking Trump for previous comments supportive of LGBTQ rights, emerged from a Signal channel called "War Room Creative Ideas." Screenshots of the channel were shared with the outlet and their authenticity confirmed by a second source familiar with the campaign.
One screenshot showed staffers praising the since-deleted video that displayed the Sonnenrad that was widely criticized, which featured a character looking on in dismay at Trump policies, and becoming overjoyed when DeSantis appears in a door, all playing out while Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill plays in the background.
"This belongs in the Smithsonian," wrote former campaign director of research and data Kyle Lamb, who was one of 38 staffers laid off in recent weeks during a campaign reset.
Photo Credit: Semafor
The messages viewed by Semafor also showed staff members actively sharing images that should be put in the video during the editing process, though the Sonnenrad symbol was not shared by the staffers.
Director of rapid response Christina Pushaw, who presided over the channel, used the Signal group to spread the content to anonymous allies on Twitter, the chat reportedly revealed. The videos were first shared to social media not by the campaign but by the alternate accounts.
Pushaw reportedly told junior staffers that they should continue making these meme videos, while other aides said they wanted to push more videos out, a person familiar with the campaign said.
According to Semafor, the channel "was also used to place more conventional opposition research with accounts on Twitter."
One July 19 conversation on the channel, viewed by the outlet, saw Pushaw sharing a "fun" clip of Trump discussing China at a Fox News town hall, and asked if anyone in the group knew "any Anons who might want it," adding that "if we post it or a named influencer posts it, it might get noted."
A staffer replied that they could send the video to "proud elephant." This Twitter account, under the handle ProudElephant US, had previously shared other pro-DeSantis content, and had recently posted another China-related clip from the same event the channel was referencing.
According to Semafor, the campaign has never publicly confirmed nor denied ownership over the Sonnenrad or LGBT videos, which staffers retweeted from the anonymous accounts that posted them.
Nate Hochman, who shared the Sonnenrad video and who Axios reports created it, was recently fired.
In regards to the LGBT video, the New York Times reported, "A DeSantis campaign aide had originally produced the video internally, passing it off to an outside supporter to post it first and making it appear as if it was generated independently, according to a person with knowledge of the incident."
The chat was shut down after the Sonnenrad video received national backlash.
The DeSantis campaign declined to tell Semafor about their staff’s role in producing the videos, or whether DeSantis had made any changes in the campaign in response to the negative attention the videos received.
In an interview with Fox, DeSantis defended the video that took aim at Trump's support for gay rights, saying it was based on criticisms of Trump’s record. He also attempted to distance himself from his campaign.
"These things get shared, or whatever — and look, I’m responsible for it. Don’t get me wrong," DeSantis said. "But the idea that I was sitting there, like — oh, share this video? No. It’s a rapid response thing."
In May, Pushaw tweeted that "if anyone working for Team DeSantis were to leak, the leak would be traced back to them, and they would be fired. It would set a great example for the rest of the team."
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