Elon Musk Twitter chaos derails Ron DeSantis presidential campaign launch
Florida governor Ron DeSantis had his planned presidential campaign launch derailed when the live Twitter event hosted by billionaire Elon Musk was blighted by a series of technical issues.
Mr DeSantis was due to launch his campaign in a ‘Twitter Space’ audio stream with Mr Musk on Wednesday night, but the event was blighted by more than 20 minutes of technical issues.
Instead of the planned discussion, the 500,000 Twitter users who tuned in were greeted by minutes of silence, microphone feedback, and occasional whispered complaints by Mr Musk and his aides about “melting” servers.
In the brief moment the live stream was working, Mr Musk said he was “super excited to have Governor DeSantis, make this, uh…”, but the feed crashed before the Governor could speak.
A right-wing “culture warrior” who has imposed a restrictive abortion ban and a slew of deeply divisive laws targeting Florida’s LGBT+ community, Mr DeSantis, 44, is seen as one of the only Republicans who could pose a serious challenge to Donald Trump’s comeback bid – and earn the right to take on likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
A one-time Trump acolyte, relations between the two men have turned bitter as they both laid the groundwork for their respective campaigns, with Mr Trump testing out a series of diminutive nicknames including “Ron DeSanctimonious” and “Meatball Ron”.
Mr DeSantis eventually delivered his speech in a second Twitter Space event attended by a much smaller audience, in which he claimed Joe Biden was “taking his cues” from a “woke mob”.
“This means replacing the woke mind virus with reality,” he said. “We cannot have inmates running the asylum.”
While calling for “focus on the core mission”, Mr DeSantis took time in his speech to hit out at “gender ideology and pronouns”.
He vowed to “shut down the border and construct a border wall”, adding: “We will never surrender to the woke mob, and we will leave the woke ideology in the dustbin of history.”
Mr DeSantis also expounded on his feud with Disney, claiming the company was “outed as trying to inject matters of sex into the programming for the youth” after opposing his controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
He claimed: “Florida stands for the protection of children. We believe jamming gender ideology in elementary school is wrong. Disney obviously supported injecting gender ideology in elementary school.”
Mr DeSantis said he decided on a Twitter launch event because he wanted to “go against the grain” and show support for Mr Musk’s takeover of the site.
The governor also pushed back at civil rights group NAACP after it issued a travel advisory warning that leaders in Florida are “openly hostile” towards Black and LGBT+ people. He claimed: “A lot of their board members have put out on social media during my governorship, (photos of) Florida vacations where they seem to be having an awfully good time.”
The presidential candidate was expected to follow up the relatively sedate launch plans with prime-time appearances on conservative programmes, including on Fox News.
But the chaos led to widespread mockery.
Joe Biden shared a link to his campaign donation page, writing: “This link works.”
MSNBC host Medhi Hasan wrote: “You can be the richest person in the world, and the person who wants to be the most powerful person in the world, and still make complete fools of yourselves online.
“It’s amateur hour over at both Twitter HQ and the DeSantis campaign on their joint big night, it seems.”
Mr Musk said he was not endorsing Mr DeSantis, telling the event: “We’re absolutely committed to freedom of speech and a level playing field, and a vigorous debate. Hopefully, this can be a platform that brings people up divergent political views, to exchange those views and perhaps some minds will be changed one way or the other.”
He went on to vent about an “elite cabal” deciding the narrative, claiming: “There was some headline from The Atlantic, basically claiming that anyone who listens to this Space on Twitter is basically a Nazi.”
On his TRUTH Social platform on Wednesday, Donald Trump shared messages branding his rival a “deep state puppet” and a “disloyal person” who “desperately needs a personality transplant”.
At the time Mr DeSantis was set to launch his campaign, Mr Trump launched his first attack ad – describing his opponent as a “Washington-established politician” who “is attacking the very man who saved his career”.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr DeSantis filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission for his candidacy – and also signed a critical bill amending Florida’s elections law, allowing him to seek federal office without resigning.
While polls show Mr Trump with a vast lead among Republican voters, Mr DeSantis could stand to benefit if the mountain of legal issues faced by Mr Trump derail his campaign before the primaries kick off in February 2024.
Other contenders for the Republican nomination include the former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina senator Tim Scott, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson. Former vice-president Mike Pence is expected to announce his candidacy in the coming weeks.
Mr DeSantis met with donors at the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami, Florida, before the evening Twitter Spaces conversation.
Mr DeSantis gained national prominence when he was backed by then-president Mr Trump and clinched the Republican gubernatorial nomination for Florida.