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Pro-Haley PAC Misattributes Quote to DeSantis

Para leer en español, vea esta traducción de Google Translate.

A TV ad from a political action committee that supports Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, accuses Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of “lying” — but then the ad goes on to make one false and another exaggerated claim about him.

The ad, which is paid for by SFA Fund Inc., says “DeSantis called China ‘Florida’s most important trading partner,'” while displaying an image of DeSantis and the Chinese flag. But DeSantis didn’t say that. That quote is from the website of Enterprise Florida Inc., a quasi-government agency in Florida that is no longer active.

The ad also exaggerates when it claims that DeSantis “allowed a Chinese military contractor to expand just miles from a U.S. Naval base,” citing a New York Post article. But that article is about the opening of a civilian flight training in Orlando, Florida. And the Post doesn’t say that DeSantis “allowed” the expansion, but rather that he didn’t speak out against it.

An Air Attack in Iowa

SFA Fund started airing the ad in Iowa on Jan. 1, according to the ad-tracking service Ad Impact. Iowa Republicans will caucus on Jan. 15 — the first caucus of the 2024 presidential campaign. Polls show former President Donald Trump far ahead of his rivals in Iowa, with Haley and DeSantis battling for second.

The ad reprises a similar claim about Florida and China trade relations that Haley made during the third Republican primary debate on Nov. 8 in Miami.

“Ron, you are the chair of your economic development agency that as of last week said Florida is the ideal place for Chinese businesses,” Haley said at that debate.

As we wrote at the time, it’s true that DeSantis was the chairman of the board of directors for Enterprise Florida, an economic development agency that was created in 1996. But the agency was dissolved in May, when DeSantis signed legislation that moved its responsibilities and resources into the Department of Economic Opportunity, which was renamed the Department of Commerce.

As far back as 2021, Enterprise Florida’s now-defunct website had said, “China remains Florida’s most important trading partner and export destination in the region.”

The SFA Fund, however, wrongly attributes those words to DeSantis — instead of the now-defunct Enterprise Florida.

Also, Florida was already a top trading partner with China before DeSantis took office in January 2019.

In 2016, Florida (and 21 other states) imported more goods from China than any other country, according to a Business Insider article based on Census Bureau data. In 2022, China remained Florida’s top country for imported goods, according to SelectFlorida, which says on its website that it was created last year as Florida’s “official international trade and investment promotion agency.”

The ad also claims that DeSantis “allowed a Chinese military contractor to expand just miles from a U.S. Naval base.” The ad cites a New York Post article about the expansion of Cirrus Aircraft — which is a subsidiary of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, or AVIC.

In October 2022, Cirrus opened two new locations in Central Florida, including a training facility at Orlando Executive Airport — which the Post says is located “12.7 miles away from the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division.” The Navy describes the training systems division as “the Navy’s principal center for modeling, simulation and training systems technologies.”

But the Post doesn’t say that DeSantis “allowed” the expansion to occur. It says that DeSantis “stayed quiet” about the expansion. In fact, the Post also notes that “Florida has not provided any taxpayer subsidies or other incentives to Cirrus or its parent company.”

The ad seemingly refers to Cirrus Aircraft as “a Chinese military contractor,” but as we said the company’s Orlando Executive Airport location provides civilian flight training — which the company also does in Tennessee, Texas and Arizona. Instead, the ad is referring to AVIC, the parent company of Cirrus Aircraft. AVIC is identified by the U.S. government as a Chinese military company. The Biden administration prohibited U.S. investments in AVIC and other Chinese “companies that undermine the security or democratic values of the United States and our allies.”

Cirrus was a U.S. company until it merged with the state-owned Chinese firm in 2011.

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