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Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took a swipe at the media for the fawning coverage outlets had given to his former 2018 rival Andrew Gillum.
Gillum, once seen as a rising star among Democrats who was narrowly defeated in the gubernatorial race by DeSantis, was indicted on charges including conspiracy and 19 counts of wire fraud, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
The former Tallahassee mayor is accused of acting in concert with associate Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks to solicit funds using false representations and promises.
"The Indictment further alleges the defendants used third parties to divert a portion of those funds to a company owned by Lettman-Hicks, who then fraudulently provided the funds, disguised as payroll payments, to Gillum for his personal use," the DOJ said in a press release.
Ron DeSantis spoke about his 2018 gubernatorial rival Andrew Gillum
The Justice Department did not go into details of the allegations, only to say the alleged scheme went on from 2016 to 2019.
Local reporting from the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper indicated that the charges are based on campaign contributions that Gillum and Lettman-Hicks allegedly solicited from undercover FBI agents. Gillum is also charged with making a false statement to the FBI. He has denied any wrongdoing.
During an event on Thursday, DeSantis was asked by a conservative activist if he felt "vindicated" following the recent developments of Gillum's legal troubles, particularly since the Republican had leveled attacks about a known FBI prob against the Democrat during the gubernatorial race.
"Well, you know… I would ask a lot of the media that propped him up whether they have any type of mea culpa on that," DeSantis responded. "I mean, there were clearly a lot of issues there. If you looked under the hood, you saw it, but what was presented to the public was that this guy was like the second coming."
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 20: Andrew Gillum speaks onstage during META – Convened By BET Networks at The Edition Hotel on February 20, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Robin L Marshall/Getty Images for BET)
"I mean, never has a candidate been elevated, I think, that way by media outlets, certainly in the last ten years or so. And I can tell you - if I had not won in 2018, this state would be in much worse shape and that's not even a question. And so we're happy that we were able to do it but even more happy that we've been able to lead and accomplish more than anyone thought we could accomplish in the state of Florida," the governor added.
During one of the most-watched campaigns in the 2018 midterms, Gillum was a media darling as the candidate many believed would defeat a pro-Trump Republican like DeSantis in a blue wave election cycle.
Pundits on CNN and MSNBC praised Gillum as "amazing" and "authentic," saying he was "electrifying the Democratic base." Esquire magazine published a feature on Gillum headlined "A star is born." Vox even ran a report about Gillum receiving 2020 buzz.
In its endorsement of Gillum, the Miami Herald editorial board accused DeSantis of "overreaching" with his claim that Gillum was corrupt by "willfully ignoring that Gillum himself is not a target of the investigation."
Former Democratic Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum was hit with nearly two dozen federal charges this week. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
In 2019, state officials brought an ethics complaint against Gillum after finding probable cause that he committed ethics violations by accepting gifts from lobbyists in 2016.
Gillium, who was hired by CNN as a contributor following his gubernatorial defeat, entered rehab in 2020 after police found him unresponsive in a Miami Beach hotel room with two other men and what officers believed to be crystal methamphetamine. While he denied using drugs, Gillum did admit to struggling with alcohol.
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer and Brian Flood contributed to this report.
Joseph A. Wulfsohn is a media reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @JosephWulfsohn.