Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has put his opposition to infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci in writing—on T-shirts and koozies. The governor, who's up for reelection next year, has begun selling anti-Fauci and anti-pandemic restrictions merchandise online. The launch comes during an increase in coronavirus cases: Florida's COVID-19 hospitalizations, new infections, and per capita deaths are among the highest in the country, the Washington Post reports. But Fauci has become a popular villain among Republicans; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has introduced legislation to eliminate his salary. Fauci and DeSantis have disagreed throughout the pandemic on mask requirements, shutdowns, and other restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Fauci has acknowledged Republicans' attacks. "I've become sort of, for some reason or another, a symbol of anything they don't like," he said. When touting the state's budget recently, DeSantis said that "if we had followed Fauci," the financial forecast would be worse. "Instead we followed freedom," the governor said. One item carries a DeSantis quote, per the Guardian: "How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?" T-shirts going for $21 say, "Keep Florida free." DeSantis argues that his resistance to lockdowns and restrictions paid off. The number of new infections plunged in Florida when vaccines began to be administered, but they've been climbing again the past few weeks. In addition to running for reelection next year, DeSantis is a potential 2024 presidential candidate. (Read more Ron DeSantis stories.)