Ron DeSantis’ campaign launch event with Elon Musk broke Twitter

What was supposed to kick off the Florida governor’s presidential bid was disrupted by tech glitches.
Ron DeSantis attends the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference on April 1 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Ron DeSantis attends the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference on April 1 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. [ TYGER WILLIAMS | The Philadelphia Inquirer ]
Published May 24|Updated May 25

It probably wasn’t the campaign launch Gov. Ron DeSantis was envisioning.

On Wednesday, Florida’s governor was set to formally announce his presidential bid during a live Twitter Spaces event with Tesla and Twitter owner Elon Musk when — in a development neither surely relished — the event repeatedly lost audio and crashed as more and more listeners poured in.

Moderator David Sacks kicked things off by promising an historic event, before saying the growing digital crowd was “melting the servers.” Within minutes, the audience grew from 188,000 to 360,000 to 458,000 to more than 600,000.

In the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, political reporters paced and refreshed the Twitter app as it kept crashing. One floor down, a cordoned-off room filled with fundraisers gathered there to support DeSantis waited for the feed to begin.

Musk apologized for the glitches, saying there was “just a massive number of people, so the servers are straining somewhat.” About 20 minutes after the event was set to start, it cut out. DeSantis never spoke.

“There’s so many people,” Musk said before the audio cut. “That’s unfortunate. I’ve never seen that before.”

Related: Here's how Elon Musk became a Ron DeSantis supporter

Among those who chimed in about the mishap: President Joe Biden — no stranger to technical difficulties in Florida — who tweeted, “This link works,” with a link to donate to his 2024 campaign.

DeSantis’ campaign also got in on the commentary, tweeting that they “broke the internet with so much excitement.”

Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for the Make America Great Again, Inc. super PAC, which supports President Donald Trump, issued a statement saying DeSantis’ “botched campaign announcement is another example of why he is just not ready for the job. The stakes are too high, and the fight to save America is too critical to gable on a first-timer who is clearly not ready for prime time.”

The group got a new event started moments later, with Sacks as host (”My account was breaking the system,” Musk said), and DeSantis quickly launched into his announcement, including a speech with familiar talking points.

Related: Read these 11 essential Ron DeSantis stories from his hometown paper

By 7 p.m., an hour after the first event started, the audience in the new event sat at around 260,000 while the governor was still taking questions. Musk said persistent “scaling issues” tied to activity on his own heavily followed account were to blame for the crash.

“We’re breaking new ground here,” Sacks said. “You know you’re breaking new ground when there are bugs in scaling issues.”

Prior to Musk’s $44 million takeover of Twitter, DeSantis had a skeptical attitude toward the site and other large technology companies. In 2021, he signed a bill to crack down on companies like Facebook and Twitter, denouncing “Big Tech oligarchs” and accusing them of censoring conservatives. This year, DeSantis pushed for a “digital bill of rights” to protect consumer data. Part of the bill, which he has not yet signed, also says companies operating search engines should detail how much the “prioritization or deprioritization of political partisanship” influences their results.

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But as his Twitter Spaces event with Musk wrapped up around 7:30 p.m., DeSantis sounded more enthusiastic.

“We should do it again!” he said. “I think it was fun. I think this is great, and we’ll make sure we come back and do it again. This is a great platform.”

Times staff writers Romy Ellenbogen, Emily L. Mahoney and Kirby Wilson contributed to this report.