Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appeared winded during a speech, fueling speculation that he secretly contracted COVID-19. Difficulty breathing is a common symptom of the virus.
DeSantis reemerged this week after being absent from the public eye for over two weeks. His office said it was just a vacation, but many had doubts.
On Wednesday, DeSantis announced a $10 million investment into semiconductor production. He said the investment is intended to curb reliance on China.
Ordinarily, such an announcement would be a minor political win. Instead, he went viral for his possible viral load.
The longer DeSantis spoke, the more audible his breathing became.
Some joked that he was choked up over semiconductors. “DeSantis COULD just be getting really really emotional talking about programs to spur semiconductor manufacturing,” tweeted one.
Far more people theorized that the governor has or had COVID.
Two clips of the speech posted by Florida attorney Ron Filipkowski and liberal political action committee Meidas Touch have amassed a cumulative 3 million views. In late 2020, Filipkowski resigned from a judicial nominating commission DeSantis had appointed him to, in part due to the governor’s COVID response.
Via direct message on Twitter, DeSantis’ spokesperson Christina Pushaw denied that he has COVID. “He has not tested positive, he has not had symptoms,” Pushaw said, adding, “He has done public events every day this week.”
Florida is in the midst of a severe increase in COVID cases as the omicron variant ravages the nation. This has amplified criticisms of how the governor has handled the ongoing public health crisis.
DeSantis opposes mask and vaccine mandates. Early in the pandemic, he falsely asserted that young people don’t die from COVID.
On Tuesday, DeSantis said that asymptomatic people need not get tested for the virus even if they’ve been exposed. Naples Daily News reports that his surgeon general added, “If you don’t have symptoms, you are not a case.”
Asymptomatic people, including those who are vaccinated, are capable of spreading the virus.
Speculation that DeSantis got the virus was rampant on social media after his speech. It popped up on platforms ranging from Twitter to 4chan and everywhere in between.
“I pray whatever is going on that the Good Lord blesses and keeps the DeSantis family safe,” a far-right Telegram channel posted Thursday.
A redditor commented, “Looks just like Trump after climbing the stairs when he got out of the hospital, just gulping for air.”
“OmicRon DeSantis,” tweeted @Strandjunker.
Many of DeSantis’ critics took a mocking tone.
DeSantis appeared to be breathing normally in a press conference on Thursday.
This post has been updated with comment from DeSantis’ spokesperson.