EXCLUSIVE: Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rubbed salt on the wound Wednesday by trolling his opponent, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, over her heavily scrutinized vow to require all social media users be verified.
DeSantis’ campaign announced new merchandise mocking Haley’s comments, including a t-shirt with the phrase, “Always Watching,” and a quote from Haley saying that “every person on social media should be verified by their name.”
Another item is a dystopian-themed “Official Internet Identification Card” fashioned after something that might be required by a science-fiction authoritarian regime.
Haley’s comments came during a Tuesday appearance on Fox News when she said the first things she would do if elected president would be to force social media companies to show their algorithms, in addition to the verification requirement.
“First of all, it’s a national security threat. When you do that, all of a sudden people have to stand by what they say. And it gets rid of the Russian bots, the Iranian bots and the Chinese bots. And then you’re going to get some civility when people know their name is next to what they say, and they know their pastor and their family members are going to see it,” she said.
DeSantis was quick to rip Haley for the proposal, joining a wave of critics blasting it as “unconstitutional.”
“You know who were anonymous writers back in the day? Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison when they wrote the Federalist Papers. They were not ‘national security threats,’ nor are the many conservative Americans across the country who exercise their Constitutional right to voice their opinions without fear of being harassed or canceled by the school they go to or the company they work for,” DeSantis wrote.
He went on to call her proposal “dangerous,” and said it would be “dead on arrival” in a DeSantis administration.
Haley walked back those comments on Wednesday, telling CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that while she didn’t mind “anonymous American” free speech, she didn’t support anonymous free speech for actors in Russia, Iran and China.
“What I know, what anyone in intelligence [knows]… Russia, Iran and China, North Korea too, know that the cheapest form of warfare is to spread misinformation. Look at what happened with Israel. You want to know where all this pro-Hamas information is coming from? It is coming from foreign actors that are sowing chaos and division,” she said.
“I want freedom of speech for Americans. I don’t want freedom of speech for Russia and Hamas, and that’s what’s happening right now. So the way you fix that is we need our social media companies to verify everybody,” she said.
Fox News’ Hanna Panreck contributed to this report.