Ron DeSantis denies any Florida book bans in ‘gender-ideology’ rant

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during a press conference.

Ron DeSantis has claimed no books have been banned in Florida, blaming the story on a “media hoax”.

On Sunday (8 October), Fox News host Shannon Bream asked Republican governor DeSantis about his state’s book bans and if he felt his stoking of culture wars and attacks on LGBTQ+ rights in Florida had taken attention away from other topics the presidential hopeful might like to speak about.

Instead of seizing the chance to discuss other pressing issues, DeSantis, who has previously accused Disney – with whom he is in a long-running feud – of wanting to force “gender ideology” on children, began another rant on the topic and it’s apparent place in US elementary schools.

“We can’t, as a country, succeed if kindergartners are being taught that their gender is a choice or that they can change, they were born in the wrong body. That’s just wrong,” he said.

Bream then mentioned overhearing a woman who said: “I think it’s terrible in Florida that they’re banning books… I don’t want my [LGBTQ+] child to go somewhere like that.”

DeSantis responded: “Well, first of all, there’s not a single book that’s been banned in the state of Florida, that is a media hoax.”

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He then claimed that removing “x-rated” books from fourth-grade classrooms isn’t the same as banning them. 

His comments follow similar statements made by Florida Department of Education (DoE) spokeswoman Caily Myers, who also insisted that no books had been banned in the Sunshine State.

A report from Florida’s DoE, however, revealed that about 300 books have been removed from schools since 2022.

Many of the banned titles, including works by Juno Dawson, Maia Kobabe and Gabby Rivera, draw on LGBTQ+ themes or incorporate queer characters.

In March, graphic novel series Heartstopper was added to the list of LGBTQ+ books banned in certain parts of the US, a move author Alice Oseman described as thinly veiled homophobia.

The books were taken off shelves in accordance with Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act – better known as Don’t Say Gay – and Florida House Bill 1467, a policy introduced by DeSantis last year, which, as his website states, “requires school districts to be transparent in the selection of instructional materials, including library and reading materials”.

DeSantis added: “A teacher should not be instructing a second-grader that their gender is a choice. They need to be focusing on math[s] and reading, focus on science…

“What we’re doing is vindicating what education should be. It should not be a hobbyhorse for the school systems to impose an agenda on kids.”