DeSantis Campaign Flips Twitter Space Crash Around: ‘Help Us Break Washington Next’

By Dan M. Berger
Dan M. Berger
Dan M. Berger
Dan M. Berger mostly covers issues around Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for The Epoch Times. He also closely followed the 2022 midterm elections. He is a veteran of print newspapers in Florida and upstate New York and now lives in the Atlanta area.
May 25, 2023Updated: May 25, 2023

Ron DeSantis and his presidential campaign have remained upbeat despite his glitch-ridden announcement on May 24. The largest crowd ever tried to sign in to his announcement’s audio room on Twitter Spaces and crashed it. That led to several stoppages, a 25-minute delay, and finally, a reboot in which far fewer people were admitted than had initially tried to get in.

“We had a huge audience,” the Florida governor told Fox News’ Trey Gowdy later that evening. “It was the biggest they’ve ever had. It did break the Twitter Space. And so we’re really excited about the enthusiasm.”

His campaign the next day had T-shirts for sale: “Our Campaign Launch Broke The Internet!” “DeSantis Breaks Systems: The Internet, The Deep State, Corporate Media, Woke Indoctrination,” with the slogan underneath the shirt’s picture, “Help Us Break Washington Next.”

The campaign said in a public statement that the launch and his videos received 30 million views in 15 hours.

Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk departs the company’s local office in Washington, on Jan. 27, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

After the launch, the DeSantis campaign’s press secretary, Bryan Griffin, said on Twitter: “There was so much enthusiasm for Governor DeSantis’ vision for our Great American Comeback that he literally busted up the internet. Washington is next. $1 million raised online in one hour… and counting!” Within 24 hours after his launch, his campaign had raised $8.2 million, his campaign said.

While his opponents and detractors sought to make hay with the breakdown, the National Review’s Jim Geraghty viewed it with a cooler eye. The breakdown may not prove a defining moment, he wrote.

“Twitter Spaces has no visual component. You can’t see the technical snafus, or DeSantis reacting with any frustration, or anything like that, and there’s no point in listening to the silence that was supposed to be filled with DeSantis’s voice. When a campaign has some brutal, defining gaffe or embarrassing moment, there’s almost always a visual component, because the moment is almost always caught on video.”

And had the event been on video, it might not have shown anything embarrassing or unplanned.

David Sacks, a co-founder of PayPal who co-hosted the event with Twitter owner Elon Musk, another PayPal co-founder, told Fox News Laura Ingraham afterward: “The governor was totally unflappable. And I think one thing I learned about him from this is that once we did get started, and we were about 15 or 20 minutes late, there was no hint of anger or irritation on his part. He was in a great mood. He was, like I said, cool and unflappable. I think he made a great impression of someone who doesn’t get thrown off his game easily.”

“I mean, DeSantis just melted the servers, we had so much interest. I mean, I gotta hand it to him. Normally it takes the Kardashians to do that,” Sacks said. “We’ve never had that level of scale before, where I think the biggest room has been around 100,000.”

DeSantis told radio host Matt Murphy on May 25 that he wouldn’t repeat the rollout: “I don’t think so. I think we got way more reach [than a traditional type of announcement] by doing it. Everybody was talking about it. When you are talking about Elon and Twitter, it takes on a life of its own.” He said “millions and millions more” would be watching it the next day.

And it meant something to do it on Twitter, DeSantis told Dana Loesch in another interview: “The fact that Elon and Twitter were involved, for conservatives, that was meaningful because we have seen how ‘Big Tech’ has tried to censor conservatives. We do not need … legacy media to reach voters.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to guests at the Republican Party of Marathon County Lincoln Day Dinner annual fundraiser in Rothschild, Wis., on May 6, 2023. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Jeff Childers, a Gainesville attorney and conservative blogger, wrote on May 25 that he found DeSantis’s speech “solid” but, coming from prepared remarks, “it was maybe a little flat and emotionally unsatisfying. … Maybe DeSantis is better unscripted.”

“It was a good speech,” Childers continued. He said it contained “classic conservative punchlines like ‘merit must trump identity politics.'” And “the Governor described solid conservative positions on all the issues, from the border (build the wall) to the military (delete ideology), to pruning the administrative state (we’ll bring the admin state to heel).”

Childers said it got “a lot more interesting once moderators began to let users ask questions.” Most of the questioners were hand-picked, he said, like U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattcharya, one of DeSantis’s allies in fighting the COVID lockdown.

“DeSantis was at his best during the Q&A portion,” Childers said. “He is exciting and passionate when he’s unscripted and when he discusses the issues he feels strongly about.”

“I suspect this live-event format will rapidly replace the traditional news interview format, which has devolved into a painful charade when it involves democrat politicians, and a pugilistic exercise in frustration when it comes to conservatives. The bottom line is, nobody cares what barking reporters want to ask.”

Ann coulter
Ann Coulter speaks onstage during Politicon 2018 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, Calif., on Oct. 20, 2018. (Rich Polk/Getty Images for Politicon)

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, in a late-night podcast on Substack with her frequent liberal sparring partner Mickey Kaus, called the crash “a complete disaster.”

“I was about to just call it quits and say, screw it, this is a pain in the neck, when he started talking about immigration. And he was magnificent,” said Coulter, who for years has called immigration and border control the most critical issue facing the country.

Sara Fischer and Mike Allen of left-leaning Axios saw DeSantis’s choice to announce on Twitter with Elon Musk as a blow to Fox News and Rupert Murdoch.

“Elon Musk has displaced Rupert Murdoch and Fox News as the king of conservative media in recent weeks,” they wrote on May 24.

Epoch Times Photo
Rupert Murdoch in New York City on Sept. 25, 2017. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

They checked off such events as the departure of Tucker Carlson, the most-watched personality in cable journalism, the subsequent loss of viewers to Newsmax, the conservative Daily Wire’s decision to put all its podcasts on Twitter, but most of all, DeSantis’s decision.

“In choosing to bypass Fox News for Twitter, DeSantis is sending a signal to conservatives that Fox News is just as much a part of the mainstream media as CNN or any other news network,” they wrote.

“On Monday, The Daily Signal—a conservative publication owned by the Heritage Foundation—published a report based on a leak from a 2021 Fox News employee handbook that said employees are allowed to use bathrooms aligned with the gender they associate with.

“That leak sparked outrage from right-wing voices, including one of The Daily Wire’s most popular podcasters, Matt Walsh, who said on Twitter, ‘Fox News is fully woke on trans ideology.’ Now that Tucker Carlson’s gone, ‘there’s no stopping Fox’s march leftward,’ he added.”

“‘The old system is collapsing,’ Carlson told Axios. ‘You can’t claim you’ve got a democracy if all the information voters receive before a presidential election has been curated by the people already in charge.'”

“Fox News is still by far the highest-rated cable news network in America, averaging at least 1.5 million viewers per night in prime time. But cable news is rapidly declining. Today, only 66 million U.S. households pay for a cable subscription.”

Fox News did get an exclusive sit-down with DeSantis an hour later when Trey Gowdy interviewed him. But other legacy media were cut out of the evening’s events. DeSantis’s phone-in press conference with select reporters included media such as The Epoch Times, Town Hall, The Federalist, The Florida Standard, and the Washington Examiner. The New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN were not present.

John Haughey and Nanette Holt contributed to this story.