Gov. Ron DeSantis: Florida banning books is a ‘nasty’ hoax

From inside the State Attorney’s Office building in Tampa, the governor of Florida took aim at some media outlets and individuals, saying they are falsely explaining the state education department’s stand on some books in schools.

Before Gov. Ron DeSantis took the stage, a video played in the room, showing alleged examples of books that have been found in Florida school districts, including Hillsborough County. FOX 13 has not confirmed if these books were found on campus. 

The four books specifically addressed Wednesday included images of sexually explicit images and descriptions. 

When the governor entered the room, the front of the lectern read, "Exposing the book ban hoax," and began pushing back against criticism regarding the removal of books from schools. 

"It's a hoax in service of trying to pollute and sexualize our children," DeSantis said. "A lot of what's been going on is an attempt to create a political narrative."

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According to DeSantis, there have been no "book bans," but there are books that are being removed because, in his view, they don't belong in schools because of their content.

DeSantis said the books in the video are the types of books that he wants to be removed from schools because they violate Florida law regarding the distribution of pornography in classrooms.

"That stuff is not something that's going to take a rocket scientist to figure out shouldn't be in the schools," he said. "It's a false political narrative, and that's bad enough as it is but for me, the important thing is that's a false narrative in service of using our schools for indoctrination rather than education." 

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A law went into effect this year requiring all material in school libraries and media centers to be approved by a trained librarian or media specialist. Teachers could face third-degree felonies if they allow kids access to books that are deemed "pornographic."

But critics have said this law is too vague, and some teachers decided to remove all books from their classroom collections until they find out if they’re approved. 

"The idea that we would have to keep students from getting books that they're interested in is beyond my wildest imaginations," Don Falls, a longtime Manatee High School history teacher, said in January.

Gov. DeSantis said photos from Duval County that were later revealed to be fake showed similarly empty shelves.

Some of the governor's critics, meanwhile, accused him of creating his own false narrative for political reasons.

"He makes it sounds like, you know, one that there's that our schools are full of pornography. I think that is completely inaccurate. That is false," said Raegan Miller with the Florida Freedom to Read Project, whose kids are in school in Pinellas County. "It takes a book completely out of context and none of these books that he's talking about were in curriculum. These are library books that are on a shelf that you have the right to tell your child, your school, your administrators that you don't want your student to read."