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Axios fires Florida reporter over “propaganda” email

Former Axios reporter and current breakfast master Ben Montgomery is seen in an undated social media photo. (Image via Twitter, Graphic by The Desk)
Former Axios reporter and current breakfast master Ben Montgomery is seen in an undated social media photo. (Image via Twitter, Graphic by The Desk)

A Florida-based reporter for the business publication Axios was fired this week for an emailed response to the press office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The response came after the governor’s press office emailed reporters about a roundtable event focused on several controversial topics and their impact on the state’s higher education. The topics discussed included “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives (DEI), according to a copy of the release.

Axios reporter Ben Montgomery was one of dozens of journalists who received the e-mail. But he was the only one who responded back to the email challenging the validity of the note as a press release.

“This is propaganda, not a press release,” Montgomery wrote, according to a copy of his email posted online by Education Florida Communications Director Alex Lanfranconi.

After word of his email spread through social media, editors at Axios called Montgomery and informed him of his termination. His last day at the publication was Monday.

His firing was first noted on Wednesday by Vanity Fair editor Charlotte Klein. Montgomery responded to Klein’s tweet by saying he had “personal news,” a prefix used by journalists when announcing their departure from a newsroom.

“I made crêpes this morning for the first time in years,” Montgomery continued. “Strawberry compote and whipped cream; they were delicious.”

When asked by a social media troll if he would consider “making solar panels and/or learning to code” as his next career choice, Montgomery quipped that he was “looking for a walking mail route,” calling it a “long held dream.” He later offered advice to another social media user who asked about his compote-making skills. (“Stew whole strawberries in a little butter and water with some brown sugar and a pinch of salt,” he wrote. “Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water is mostly gone, and it has the consistency of preserves.”)

Montgomery covered news and politics from Tampa Bay. While at Axios, he helped launch the brand’s hyperlocal newsletter focused on the western part of Florida.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).