Showtime feared ‘political consequences’ of airing documentary on DeSantis record at Guantanamo, report says

The network reportedly buried a Vice investigation about the Florida governor’s service at the military base

Alex Woodward
Thursday 20 July 2023 12:41 EDT

Former Guantanamo prisoner: Ron DeSantis watched me being tortured

Before Showtime pulled the piece, a political lobbyist for the premium cable network reportedly warned about the “political consequences” of airing a Vice investigative documentary about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his service at Guantanamo Bay.

The Paramount-owned cable network buried the episode following concerns from the company’s Washington lobbyist, according to Semafor.

The Independent has requested comment from representatives for Showtime and Vice.

“We not only stand behind our rigorous reporting but are proud of the incredible journalism showcased in this story,” Vice spokesperson Elise Flick told Semafor.

The network’s decision to shelve the episode, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter in May, arrived as the candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination came under wider scrutiny for his time at the US military base.

Mr DeSantis – a former officer in the US Navy assigned to the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps – was stationed at the base from March 2006 and January 2007, according to service records.

A description from Showtime’s website indicated that the episode contained allegations from “former detainees that he was present at force-feedings that were condemned as torture” by the United Nations, and addressed the “role of Navy JAGs in the investigation of the detainee deaths.”

Four days before the episode was scheduled to air on 28 May, Vice received an unusual note from Showtime’s post-production staff to tell Vice that “the broader network group teams are taking a deeper internal look at this Sunday’s episode, which will delay its premiere,” according to Semafor.

The Vice showrunner and its executive vice president for global programming and documentary asked for more clarity, and Vice sought to push a public message that the parties were still working to schedule the episode, Semafor reported. But communications fizzled out, and it became clear that the episode was likely shelved indefinitely.

The governor’s military service record and allegations that he witnessed forced feedings at Guantanamo came under closer scrutiny as he weighed whether to enter the 2024 race, but the candidate has largely refused to discuss the allegations and has suggested that they are not credible.

An investigation by The Independent detailed several claims from detainees, including allegations from two prisoners who were held at the notorious installation claiming that Mr DeSantis witnessed the forced feeding of hunger-striking prisoners.

Mansoor Adayfi, a Yemeni citizen who was held for 14 years on the US Naval base in Cuba, told The Independent that he was force-fed by camp staff in 2006, and that Mr DeSantis was present for at least one of those sessions.

Mr DeSantis was a 27-year-old Navy lawyer when he was stationed at the base during a year marked by riots, hunger strikes and death. Following his service, he has continued to advocate against the release of detainees suspected of terrorism, but he has not spoken in detail about his time at the base.

In brief comments to reporters dismissing the allegations, he has rejected claims that any detainee would remember him.

“Do you honestly believe that’s credible? It’s ... 2006, I’m a junior officer, do you honestly think that they would’ve remembered me?” he told a reporter on 27 April.

The decision to pull the episode came amid turmoil at both Vice, which has since filed for bankruptcy, and at Paramount, which has canceled a bulk of its original programming, with both media companies spending the last several months laying off staff and scrambling to spare financial losses.

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