[DeSantis documentary removed from Showtime, allegedly motivated by “blatant corporate censorship for political gain”] - The Daily Beast

When executives at Showtime pulled a VICE documentary exploring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ experiences with Guantanamo Bay detainees, it was hard to ignore the timing: It was one day after DeSantis officially declared for president.

The Daily Beast has obtained a transcript of that unaired documentary, “The Guantanamo Candidate,” which was anchored by Seb Walker, a longtime correspondent for the Emmy-winning newsmagazine.

Among a number of insights into DeSantis’ past, the transcript features interviews with former prisoners and a former Naval staff sergeant-turned-Gitmo whistleblower who overlapped with DeSantis. All three allege inhumane treatment at the hands of the U.S. government, with the detainees directly implicating DeSantis—at the time, a junior-level military legal adviser—in approving and overseeing brutal measures.

These former prisoners alleged that DeSantis watched forced-feedings, a cruel and degrading practice that a United Nations investigation into the controversial offshore prison concluded was torture in February 2006. This was the month before DeSantis arrived, per his military records.

The saga of the ill-fated mini-doc has played out in drips after The Hollywood Reporter broke the news in early June that Showtime had shelved the documentary. But the story has largely gone unnoticed amid VICE’s plunge from billions to bankruptcy. Showtime had slated the segment to air on May 28.

A Semafor report this week shed more light on VICE’s internal bewilderment at the decision to pull the episode, a move that appeared to come out of the blue after the months-long project was completed and had already been advance-screened for journalists. One source told Semafor that a Showtime lobbyist in D.C.—DeDe Lea—had expressed concerns about the episode.

Three people familiar with the production told The Daily Beast that, given the timing and the seemingly impenetrable secrecy surrounding the decision, they could only explain Showtime’s last-minute call as politically motivated, though it’s still unclear exactly how and where it originated. One of the sources called the move “blatant corporate censorship for political gain.”

Two sources with knowledge of the production confirmed Semafor’s reporting that Showtime never expressed concerns to VICE about the segment’s actual content. The episode had passed VICE’s internal legal and journalistic standards reviews, both sources told The Daily Beast, adding that Showtime executives had initially signed off without any additional notes.

As governor, DeSantis has routinely expressed hostility to the mainstream media, a posture that in recent months he has elevated to being openly litigious. That streak has found its most recent incarnation in DeSantis’ very public and very political ongoing feud with Disney, which famously houses major operations in Florida.

Showtime’s parent company, Paramount, is also a sprawling entertainment conglomerate with high stakes in the Sunshine State. But Paramount has recently found itself on uneasy footing, most specifically after turning in a $1.1 billion first-quarter loss [stemming in large part from its big bet on the faltering Paramount+ streaming service—including a $1.7 billion integration with Showtime, which has not migrated any VICE content.

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The Daily Beast

Locations: Florida 

Organizations: Showtime Guantanamo Bay The Hollywood Reporter VICE Semafor The Daily Beast Paramount 

People: Ron DeSantis 

Tags: Corruption Free Speech 

Type: Headlines