Axios fired a reporter after he called a news release from Florida’s Department of Education “propaganda” in an emailed response to the department.
“This is propaganda, not a press release,” Tampa Bay reporter Ben Montgomery said in a reply to a release from Florida’s Department of Education about an event with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), according to a screenshot posted Monday by the department’s communications director.
DeSantis’s deputy press secretary Jeremy Redfern replied to the screenshot: “Is this a journalism?”
The Washington Post and other outlets reported that Montgomery said Axios Local’s executive editor called him a few hours after the email to say his reputation as a journalist in the area had been tarnished.
Axios’ Editor-in-Chief Sara Kehaulani Goo confirmed that Montgomery is no longer with Axios but declined to discuss the conditions of his departure. Montgomery’s last article listed on Axios’ site is dated Tuesday.
Montgomery shared a post from Vanity Fair staff writer Charlotte Klein that said he’d been fired over the email but didn’t comment on the news directly, instead saying in his quote-Tweet, “Some personal news: I made crepes this morning for the first time in years. Strawberry compote and whipped cream. They were delicious.”
Montgomery told Poynter’s senior media writer Tom Jones that he’d complained to Axios higher-ups about his workload a few months ago but didn’t believe the incident could have influenced his firing.
The press release Montgomery was commenting on announced that DeSantis would host a roundtable discussion “exposing the diversity equity and inclusion scam in higher education.” The Florida governor in the release argued “the woke mob” is pushing “political indoctrination” onto students.
Alex Lanfranconi, the Florida Department of Education communications director, shared the screenshot of Montgomery’s reply shortly after receiving it. Lanfranconi has posted other screenshots of an email and articles from other journalists in recent weeks.
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