In Blow to DeSantis, Florida Bills to Limit Press Protections Are Shelved

The demise of the bills stands out as a rare legislative blow for Mr. DeSantis, who, as he prepares to run for president, has successfully pushed an aggressive agenda on abortion, gun laws, the death penalty, union restrictions and immigration through the Florida legislature this year. But in the case of the defamation bills, it was Mr. DeSantis’s boosters in the media who showed their muscle.

“The minute conservative media outlets started catching wind of this it was stopped real quick,” said Javier Manjarres, the publisher of The Floridian, a conservative site that is usually supportive of the governor’s agenda. Last month, he wrote an article that said the legislation would be “an irreparable self-inflicted political wound” if Mr. DeSantis were to sign it.

“They were trying to hit the liberal media and didn’t realize it would be a boomerang that would come back around right at them,” said Brendon Leslie, the editor in chief of Florida’s Voice, a digital outlet that is favored by Mr. DeSantis. He and others worried that the legislation, if passed, would encourage lawsuits that could put many conservative publications out of business.

Mr. Leslie sparred on Twitter with Mr. Andrade over the legislation.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative nonprofit, and the Better Business Bureau also signaled their opposition to the legislation, claiming the bills would lead to an avalanche of nuisance litigation that could increase insurance rates and cause endless headaches for business interests.

Anthony Sabatini, a former Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives who said he supported the bills, believed the pressure from right-wing news media was critical.

“I saw legislators being attacked by conservative media influencers,” Mr. Sabatini said. “Republican leadership was being attacked from the right and left, from all sides. That killed it.”

A spokesman for Mr. DeSantis did not answer questions about the legislation, instead referring to a round-table discussion on defamation that he hosted early in February, saying that it represented “the governor’s position on the subject matter of media accountability.”

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