Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just appointed a January 6th apologist and QAnon conspiracy theorist married to an ally in the state House to Florida’s Board Of Education.
DeSantis’s pick is Esther Byrd, who is married to State Rep. Cord Byrd (R-11), a hardline Republican member of the state legislature who recently voted against redistricting maps that preserved majority Black districts that DeSantis is trying to do away with. It was the only legislative priority state Republicans didn’t bestow on the Governor without a second thought-provoking manly due to protracted litigation over the previously gerrymandered maps.
Rep. Byrd also personally made headlines after calling a Black state lawmaker a “fucking joke” on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives, leading Democrats to call for his resignation after they called him “unfit to be in office”.
If the last is any indication, Ester Byrd will be easily confirmed despite what you’re about to read below. It’s crazy!
For starters, Esther is just as unhinged as her husband, maybe worse since she is known for having been a staunch defender of the January 6th rioters, claiming they were “peacefully protesting” while alluding to “coming civil wars”.
“In the coming civil wars (We the People vs the Radical Left and We the People cleaning up the Republican Party), team rosters are being filled,” wrote Byrd on her Facebook wall. “Every elected official in DC will pick one. There are only 2 teams… With Us [or] Against Us.”
Last year, Esther Byrd also wrote in defense of the Proud Boys, a far-right organization known for political violence. Byrd complained that Facebook was “throwing people in FB jail” who share information about the Proud Boys.
DeSantis’ wonderful school board appointee is also a QAnon supporter and was photographed on a boat that flew a QAnon flag.
For those who need an explainer, QAnon followers claim that a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles are operating a global child sex trafficking ring that conspired against former U.S. President Donald Trump during his term in office. They also say claim Trump was planning mass arrests and executions of thousands of cabal members on a day known as “the Storm” or “the Event”.
Needless to say, the whole thing is absolutely deranged and no person who puts a QAnon flag on their boat belongs in Florida’s board of education.
When asked about his wife’s comments, State Representative Cord Byrd claimed her comments were “hyperbole” and said “people talk about civil wars in the Republican Party.” while claiming it was a “figure of speech”.
We aren’t sure how that’s supposed to explain anything or make things better, but we will let Cord Byrd’s comments speak for themselves.
Esther Byrd’s appointment will have to be confirmed by the Florida Senate and it continues a pattern of politicization of Florida agencies by DeSantis. In other words, there is little doubt that short of her catching an unexpected murderer conviction between now and the vote (she’s not accursed of any crimes), they’ll confirm the appointment.
The Florida Department of Health is a prime example of politicized appointments over renowned experts. It has recently come under scrutiny after accusations of it being manipulated to serve the political interests of the governor. Not coincidentally, the GOP-controlled Florida State Senate confirmed anti-vaxxer Dr. Joseph Ladapo as state Surgeon General, who infamously cut down on testing during the Omicron wave of covid and laughed when this author asked him about it in person. He’s also an anti-masker. Recent studies show kids benefited from mask policies in schools.
Ads promoting vaccination that were produced by Florida’s Department of health were pulled from the air during Omicron’s surge late last year after DeSantis intervened. Most recently, unqualified conspiracy theorist Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said healthy kids shouldn’t get vaccinated against COVID, contradicting the CDC and becoming the first state in the nation to issue such a statement.
After a legislative session in Tallahassee full of homophobic, racist, anti-immigrant, pro-corporate legislation the Republican governor and 2024 presidential primary candidate-in-waiting decided to put a cherry on top of it all by appointing the unhinged conspiracy theorist to oversee the education of all of Florida’s schoolchildren.
In Florida, the lunatics have taken over.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.
is a reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.