The office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has contested a report by the Miami Herald that claimed the governor's invitation to be a keynote speaker at a Miami investment conference next month was canceled after some attendees complained about DeSantis' views on immigration. A spokeswoman for the governor has called the report "fake news" and demanded that the paper issue a correction after one of the event organizers said DeSantis was never invited to speak.
On Thursday, Mary Ellen Klas, the capitol bureau chief for the Miami Herald, published a story with the headline, "Investment conference in Miami cancels DeSantis' speech over 'anti-immigrant views.'" The story reported that DeSantis had been invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference hosted by EB5 Investors magazine, but that his invitation had been rescinded after some participants and sponsors objected to his immigration policies.
But the governor's office and his re-election campaign have contradicted this account, saying that DeSantis was never asked to speak at the conference and has never communicated with the event's organizers. Shortly after publication, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said the Miami Herald story was "false."
"Not only did Governor DeSantis NEVER agree to speak at the EB-5 conference, but also, the office of @GovRonDeSantis has *never even been in touch* with the organizers of this conference," Pushaw wrote on Twitter, calling on the paper to "do better."
The Herald had reported an announcement from the conference that said, "Governor DeSantis has been cancelled for Miami," and also communications from conference attendees and sponsors who had reacted to the news that DeSantis would speak.
Miami immigration attorney Ira Kurzban was one of the individuals who objected to news that DeSantis would be the keynote speaker. In an email to the conference hosts reported by the Herald, Kurzban called DeSantis "a mini-me for his Trump-like tactics" and said he "has engaged in the most virulent anti-immigrant conduct we have ever seen by a public official in this state."
According to the Herald, Kurzban's email prompted other conference sponsors and panelists to threaten to withdraw from the event because of DeSantis' inclusion.
“We are sponsors as well as speakers. If we had known that you would be inviting DeSantis as the keynote speaker, we would have given this event a miss,’’ New York attorney Mona Shah wrote in an email sent Wednesday. "Even now, I am considering withdrawing from the event. EB-5 is all about welcoming immigrants and inviting this man as keynote just sends the wrong message."
The newspaper also shared an email from Marie Ekberg Padilla, the senior editor and vice president of operations for EB5 Investors Magazine, who wrote in response to these complaints Wednesday.
“As a bipartisan organization, the keynote was simply chosen as the highest figure in the state of our event, and we have historically had keynotes from both sides of the aisle,’’ Padilla wrote in the March 23 email. "With that, a decision has been made to reconsider DeSantis. He will not be joining our event in Miami.”
The documents published by the Miami Herald show that the EB5 conference had told participants that DeSantis would speak, and that after some attendees complained, the conference announced that the governor would no longer speak. And yet DeSantis' staff said they had never been contacted by anyone coordinating the event about the keynote address.
According to Padilla, a "staff error" was the cause of the confusion.
In an email to the DeSantis campaign shared by Pushaw, Padilla wrote: “The governor was never confirmed to participate, nor was he uninvited. We made a staff error and are regretful. It’s unfortunate that our event was used by media for political gain."
Padilla did not deny that the conference had advertised DeSantis as the keynote speaker. And while her previous email announced that EB5 would "reconsider DeSantis," she did not say whether this was due to DeSantis' immigration policies. This appears to be an inference that Miami Herald made based on the complaints shared with the paper.
Pushaw has demanded that the Miami Herald add a correction to its story, clarifying that DeSantis was never invited to speak nor was he canceled because of his position on immigration.
"Issue a correction," she said.
The Miami Herald's story was updated to include comments from Pushaw, but the paper did not issue a correction to its report.