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Gov. Ron DeSantis let a man falsely claim the COVID-19 vaccine 'changes your RNA' during an anti-vaccine-mandate press conference in Florida

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Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis did not correct a city employee's false claim Monday about COVID-19 vaccines.

  • The employee made the claim at an event to promote DeSantis' campaign against vaccine mandates.

  • Gainesville is requiring its public employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face termination.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Gov. Ron DeSantis stood by during a Monday press conference as a city employee in Florida falsely claimed the COVID-19 vaccine "changes your RNA."

To promote his campaign against vaccine mandates and passports, DeSantis had invited several employees of the city of Gainesville, which is requiring its public employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or face termination, to speak out against the mandates.

The governor highlighted unvaccinated first responders facing the prospect of termination over the mandates, which he argued were unconstitutional. But he made no mention of the pervasive misinformation fueling much of the opposition to the life-saving shots.

"The vaccine changes your RNA, so, for me, that's a problem," the Gainesville man, Darris Friend, said from the podium. "They're taking away our freedom and liberty, little by little. They're using the vaccine for cover. Last year, they took away our religious rights, they're not defending our freedom of speech, and this is just one way to take us to the next step."

The crowd cheered as Friend left the podium, and the governor said nothing to contradict his false claim, a spin-off of a conspiracy theory popular online that the vaccines alter a person's DNA. They do not - a point made repeatedly by scientists and public-health officials including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An mRNA-developed vaccine, like those from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, uses messenger ribonucleic acid to attach a dummy protein to a cell's outer surface in the muscle to teach the body's immune system how to defeat it; at no time does this enter the cell's nucleus and affect the DNA.

DeSantis' communications director, Taryn Fenske, told Insider the governor "has never said the vaccine changes your RNA, nor is that his opinion."

DeSantis held the press conference, featuring a slew of local elected officials and government employees, to announce his administration would level $5,000-per-infraction fines against any Florida cities and counties requiring government employees to be vaccinated as a term of employment. Florida's GOP-controlled state legislature recently passed a law barring local governments and private businesses from requiring that their employees be vaccinated or that customers be vaccinated to receive services.

The governor threatened "millions and millions of dollars potentially in fines" against local governments. The state is also supporting a lawsuit filed by more than 200 Gainesville public employees against the city's mandate. Friend, the Gainesville employee, is a plaintiff in that suit.

President Joe Biden announced last week that his administration would require employers with more than 100 employees to mandate either vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing for all employees. He also announced that all federal government employees and contractors would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

DeSantis called the national and local rules "ridiculous, unforeseen expansions of power" and argued that "thousands of thousands" of Floridians would be "coerced out of a job through government power."

"You just throw 'em out like they're chopped liver - that is just fundamentally wrong," DeSantis said. "We're not going to let that happen. We're going to protect these jobs, we're going to protect these peoples' families, we're going to protect their livelihoods."

The governor, who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, repeatedly said Monday that people were turning down the vaccines because they'd already contracted the coronavirus and had natural immunity or because their doctors advised them against taking it. He repeated his belief that the vaccines should be widely available but that taking them should be a personal choice, and he didn't attest to the safety or efficacy of the vaccines.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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