Vice investigated a documentary purportedly claiming that Ron DeSantis allowed force-feeding while working at Guantanamo Bay out of fear that the governor would retaliate.
The film, titled ‘The Guantanamo Candidate’, claims that DeSantis advised military officials in 2006 when he was a legal adviser to the Navy on how to force-feed starving prisoners.
The documentary was intended to be released on May 28 as part of a Vice docuseries that aired on Showtime but was reportedly pulled on May 25, a day after DeSantis announced he was running for president.
It also came just weeks after Vice, once lauded for its bold and disruptive journalism, declared bankruptcy in mid-May.
The controversial practice of force-feeding was declared a form of torture by the United Nations in February 2006, just a month before DeSantis arrived at Guantanamo and served a year there.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis served as a legal adviser to military officials at Guantanamo Bay. He is pictured with his wife Cassie during his wedding in 2009, three years after his stint at Guantanamo in 2006.
According to the transcript, Mansoor Adayfi (pictured) was interviewed for the film Vice. Adayfi previously claimed he saw DeSantis laughing as he was being force-fed through a tube that was inserted into his nose.
Vice reporter Seb Walker asked DeSantis about his time at Guantanamo Bay in 2006 during an unrelated news conference in Jerusalem in April. The governor angrily responded: ‘That’s BS. complete bs’
A script for the 30-minute film, seen by the Daily Beast, indicates it was hosted by Vice journalist Seb Walker, who conducted a series of interviews with people in Guantanamo Bay at the time.
The first is a prisoner who previously described how DeSantis watched and laughed as he was force-fed through a tube up his nose during the hunger strike.
DeSantis has been reluctant to discuss the allegations at length but was famously asked about them by Walker during a press conference in Jerusalem this year.
The governor vehemently denied the claims and challenged the prisoner’s ability to remember faces.
‘It’s all BS. Total BS,’ he said.
‘Do you really believe that this is believable? It’s 2006. I am a junior officer. Do you really think they remembered me from Adam?’ he told Walker.
‘Of course not, they’re just trying to get in the news because they know people like you will swallow it because it fits your preconceived narrative you’re trying to spin. Focus on facts and stop worrying about narrative,’ he said.
Also interviewed for the documentary, according to the transcript, was a prison guard, Staff Sergeant Joe Hickman.
Hickman alleged that three hunger strike leaders were killed in prison by US officials, who later claimed they died as a result of the suicide pact. According to the transcript, he suggested in the film that DeSantis did not have the authority to be involved in that incident.
He described DeSantis as ‘extremely handsome’ and said ‘Navy girls would go crazy for him’, according to the transcript.
‘They weren’t going to give anybody that kind of responsibility,’ Hickman said of any possibility of his involvement in the deaths of the three inmates.
According to the transcript, a prison guard, Staff Sergeant Joe Hickman (pictured), was interviewed for the Vice documentary. She said ‘Navy girls will go crazy over DeSantis’ in the film
While DeSantis was stationed at Guantanamo, officials faced problems with inmates going on hunger strike over prison conditions.
DeSantis said a military commission should have been formed sooner to try the Guantanamo Bay detainees
That’s contrary to the claims of DeSantis’ commanding officer at the time, Capt. Patrick McCarthy, who told The Washington Post that DeSantis was actually involved in the alleged incident.
McCarthy told the Post, ‘He would have been the person I sent to facilitate the investigative effort. He declined to be interviewed for the film, according to the Vice transcript.
A source with direct knowledge told The Daily Beast that the documentary was shelved on May 25, just four days before it aired and after promotional materials were shared.
The episode description reads: ‘Seb Walker investigates allegations from Guantanamo Bay detainees that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis witnessed acts condemned by the United Nations during his past service as a Navy JAG officer at the controversial detention camp.’
A person with knowledge of the decision told Semaphore that Showtime’s Washington lobbyist, Diddy Lea, expressed concern about the Guantanamo film.
According to the transcript, the prisoner interviewed for the film was Mansoor Adayfi.
He wrote a now-famous opinion piece for Al-Jazeera in April in which he detailed the force-feeding experience and claimed to have seen and laughed at DeSantis.
Adayafi describes in the piece how he was ‘violently pinned to the chair so tightly that I could not move’.
‘A nurse forced a thick tube up my nose and down my throat. My nose was bleeding and the pain was so intense I thought my head would explode. The nurse won’t stop. Instead, he started pouring sure into a feeder bag attached to the tube,’ he added.
‘As I was trying to break free, I noticed the handsome face of DeSantis in the crowd beyond the chain links. He was watching my fight. He was smiling and laughing with the other officers as I screamed in agony.’
Adayfi went on to claim that she was strapped to the chair overnight after being force-fed and they started the process again the next morning.
‘Since I threw up, they fed me another case. This time, they mixed the laxative in the bag. After over nine months of no solid food the combination of sure and laxatives completely ruined my bowels. They kept me stuck in that chair all night, dirty with my own waste and vomit,’ wrote Adayafi.
A view of the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, where DeSantis worked for a year beginning in March 2006 as a legal adviser.
A US Army soldier stands at the entrance to Camp Delta where prisoners are held
The Daily Breast wrote to Showtime about the decision to drop the documentary and was given the same response as The Hollywood Reporter, which first broke the story.
A Showtime spokeswoman said, ‘We don’t comment on scheduling decisions,’ and did not respond when asked if DeSantis’ Office was in talks with the network about the documentary.
The Beast also wrote about claims he witnessed force-feeding in the DeSantis campaign and was directed at relevant parts of the Jerusalem press conference.
It did not respond to questions about the association with Showtime.
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