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Updated Aug 1, 2023, 9:36am EDT
politics

Ron DeSantis fires staffer who shared video with fascist imagery

REUTERS/Scott Morgan
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The Scoop

Nate Hochman, a prominent young Ron DeSantis staffer, was part of the slew of employees let go by the team this week, three sources familiar with the situation told Semafor.

“Nate Hochman is no longer with the campaign,” a campaign official confirmed.

Hochman, who left the National Review to join DeSantis’ campaign, faced media scrutiny after retweeting multiple pro-DeSantis videos from the four-month old DeSantisCams Twitter account.

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The videos drew special attention after a New York Times story over the weekend reported that a strange meme-filled anti-LGBT video shared by the campaign was made by a DeSantis staffer, and passed off to a different Twitter account. Noting style similarities between the anti-LGBT video and videos shared on the DeSantisCams account, Republican strategist Luke Thompson speculated that they may have been made by the same person.

The same day that the Times piece ran, Hochman was found to have shared a recent DeSantisCams video in which a depressed “wojack” character, unhappy with Donald Trump’s record, got excited about the Florida governor. It ended with the seal of Florida transforming into an apparent take on the ancient Sonnenrad, a symbol adopted by fascists, as soldiers marched in formation. The video was deleted after multiple accounts drew attention to that image.

It was not immediately clear if there was a connection between his exit and the videos. After this story published, Axios reported that Hochman himself had made — and not just shared — the latest video. The DeSantis campaign did not immediately respond to questions about whether the videos originated from the campaign.

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After publication of this story, Hochman told Semafor that “it was an honor to work for Governor DeSantis,” and declined to comment on the video’s origin.

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The View From David and Shelby

The Hochman hire was big news on the online right — the elevation of a 25-year old rising star who had survived an attempt at “cancellation.” Hochman had been published by the New York Times, discussed conservative populism on the left-wing “Know Your Enemy” podcast, and written for National Review on everything from the 2024 horse race to whether liberal bias was affecting AI.

“If the Right hopes to regain a footing in arts, schools, and intellectual life, it will have to become comfortable thinking of itself as an insurgent outsider in American culture,” Hochman wrote in a feature about the communist thinker Antonio Gramsci.

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Hochman’s fast rise earned him some enemies. Last summer, The Dispatch published audio from a Twitter Spaces chat where Hochman, while criticizing the white nationalist influencer Nick Fuentes, said that the future Trump dinner guest had “gotten a lot of kids ‘based’” with his approach to politics.

“The fact that kids are listening to you, there are good things and bad things about it,” Hochman said in the chat. “But the fact that you have said super edgy things means that there’s a pretty strong ceiling to what you can accomplish in politics.”

Some influential conservatives defended Hochman, who is Jewish, from the article’s fallout; he’d previously written that Fuentes was a “verifiable racist” with no real political constituency.

Before the campaign began, Hochman was making a case for DeSantis that many donors agreed with. At National Review, Hochman had praised Florida’s governor as an “extremely competent” politician and “shrewd political operator” who could win the nomination but didn’t have Trump’s dazzle factor.

“While Trump may trail DeSantis in focus and competence, he beats him in raw charisma,” Hochman wrote last year. In another column, he credited DeSantis with writing “a playbook for confronting woke ideology going forward” by standing behind the state’s parental rights bill, which limited discussion of LGBT issues and gender identity in public schools.

But Hochman’s background also shaped some of the more recent discussion among political insiders about DeSantis as his presidential run struggled, and donors worried that the campaign was “too online,” and too focused on social issues that appealed to highly engaged anti-woke conservatives on Twitter.

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Know More

Hochman was part of a broader campaign culling — 38 staffers total have been let go in recent weeks — as the campaign seeks to reset amid a rocky launch and stagnating poll numbers.

“Following a top-to-bottom review of our organization, we have taken additional, aggressive steps to streamline operations and put Ron DeSantis in the strongest position to win this primary and defeat Joe Biden. Governor DeSantis is going to lead the Great American Comeback and we’re ready to hit the ground running as we head into an important month of the campaign,” Generra Peck, the campaign manager, said in a statement earlier Tuesday regarding the total firings.

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