FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The press secretary for Florida's governor said Wednesday her former job working for an eastern European politician has no impact on her current role in the Sunshine State.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Christina Pushaw registered this week as a foreign agent of the former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, whom she worked for between 2018 and 2020.
While Pushaw's actions are not criminal at this point, some critics wonder why she failed to offer the transparency until now.
"I worked for a Ukrainian politician, former president of Georgia, ending in 2020. I started working in Florida six months later," Pushaw said Wednesday during an environmental news conference in Fort Myers Beach. "So it has nothing to do with my work in Florida."
WATCH PUSHAW'S COMMENTS:
According to Pushaw's attorney, Michael Sherwin, the press secretary made her disclosure after she was contacted by the Justice Department, which notified her that she was required to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Sherwin told the Washington Post that Pushaw wrote op-eds, reached out to supporters and officials, and advocated on Saakashvili's behalf in Georgia and the United States while working for the former president.
Pushaw on Wednesday dismissed the Post's article, calling it "non-news," while also saying it was "accurate."
"It is an attempt at a smear," Pushaw said.
The press secretary, a fierce defender of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, started working for him in May 2021, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Saakashvili was president of Georgia from 2004 until 2014. According to the Washington Post, he entered Ukrainian politics following his presidential term and has been "associated with factions critical of the Kremlin."
The politician is an ally of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and a supporter of democracy and free elections.
"I think you have some of these media outlets like these legacy outlets out of D.C. and New York, and anybody that's standing up and fighting back, which she has done, they wanna smear," DeSantis said Wednesday in Fort Myers Beach. "And so they will do 'hit pieces.' And that's just how they do. And you know what? That doesn't work anymore, because nobody in the public believes their garbage."
WATCH GOVERNOR'S COMMENTS:
Later on Wednesday during a news conference at the Cox Science Center & Aquarium in West Palm Beach, DeSantis called the Washington Post report a "totally ridiculous attempted smear," adding it will "embolden us to continue moving forward for the people of Florida."
"The only reason they're attacking her is because she does a great job and she's very effective at calling out their lies and their phony narratives," DeSantis said.
Pushaw was paid $25,000 over two years for writing op-eds, reaching out to supporters, and advocating in Georgia and the U.S.
Sherwin said Department of Justice officials notified Pushaw recently the work likely required agent registration, and that she filed as soon as she was made aware.
Pushaw said in a text to WPTV journalist Forrest Saunders that "Retroactive filing is routine. I voluntarily complied as soon as I was notified that I might be required to file."
DeSantis on Wednesday said he considered the article a smear piece from a biased outlet, adding it would have absolutely no impact on operations in his office.
"Whenever they’re smearing somebody, you know that person is over the target. They’re scared of that," DeSantis said in West Palm Beach. "I would be much more concerned with my press secretary if the Washington Post was writing puff pieces. Then I would think something was wrong."
Despite Pushaw ending the work in 2020, critics have questioned the delay and her ties to foreign interests.
Others were supportive, saying that while she should have registered earlier, Pushaw was working for an anti-Putin politician.