On Sept. 24, The New York Times published a story headlined “Inside the Unfounded Claim That DeSantis Abused Guantánamo Detainees.” We objected to that headline as inaccurate in an email and asked for a correction. Editors at the Times did not respond to our request, and no correction has been made.
As Florida Bulldog was the first news outlet to publish allegations made against Gov. Ron DeSantis regarding his time in Guantanamo, we feel it is necessary to publicly set the record straight. The Times’s decision to clear DeSantis of involvement in detainee abuse when he was a Naval officer is at best, premature.
What follows is our email to the Times:
To the editors:
I am the editor of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Florida Bulldog. I’m writing regarding The New York Times’s story “Inside the Unfounded Claim That DeSantis Abused Guantanamo Detainees” published on Sept. 24.
Florida Bulldog published the first news story on Jan. 26 about the torture claims made by Mansoor Adayfi via Eyes Left. That was well before Harper’s, The Washington Post and The Miami Herald, which you suggest broke the story. Florida Bulldog published additional stories of note on March 7, March 13 and March 25.
Your headline is inaccurate and should be corrected. It is impossible to know if Mr. Adayfi’s claims about Gov. Ron DeSantis are “unfounded” since the government heavily redacted Mr. DeSantis’s personnel records regarding his duties and performance at Guantanamo before releasing them following our FOIA request. Also, the governor has refused to answer substantive questions about his service there, while also choosing to omit mention of his Guantanamo duties in his book. (He belatedly denied involvement in abuse.) Your reporters seem to find nothing suspicious about any of that, even discounting Mr. DeSantis’s 2018 statements to a local TV station that he gave advice to his superiors that force feeding would be legal. (Likewise, they did not see fit to inform your readers that Mr. DeSantis’s fitness report for the period August 7, 2007 to April 8, 2008 lists his primary duty as a Staff JAG Advocate and a secondary duty as “Detention Operations.” This certainly seems to contradict some of Mr. DeSantis’s former Naval colleagues you quote.)
After Florida Bulldog published the first story, I sent a link and note via Twitter to my former Miami Herald colleague Carol Rosenberg. I thought it would give her a chance to break this story nationally since she covered Guantanamo. She never replied. It is noteworthy the Times chose not to report on this story until now, and in a way that allows Ms. Rosenberg to sidestep the fact that she got beat, badly. For her, and the Times, to now say there is “no evidence” to support Mr. Adayfi’s credible story belies the accounts of other former detainees (see our March 13 story). It also serves as a springboard for your erroneous conclusion that Mr. Adayfi’s story is “unfounded” even though many facts about Mr. DeSantis’s service in Guantanamo remain unknown because the government continues to withhold that information from the public.
Your reporting on this matter appears to be pandering to conservatives who often have been critical of the Times. Allegations of torture are not a partisan issue, as you seem to assert high up in your story. It is irresponsible to definitively absolve presidential candidate DeSantis of these allegations since we do not yet know enough information about his actions.