Showtime’s recently pulled “Vice” episode about Ron DeSantis contained headline-grabbing footage of the Florida governor’s response to whether he witnessed the torture of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, TheWrap can now confirm.
Titled, “The Gitmo Candidate and Chipping Away,” the episode was supposed to air on May 28. Its now-scrubbed logline read, “VICE News’ Seb Walker investigates claims that Florida Governor and presidential hopeful, Ron DeSantis, witnessed torture at Guantanamo Bay during one of the most brutal years in the prison’s history.” Instead of showing the episode, viewers were given a rerun in its place. Now the June 4 installment of the series — “Detransitioners and Draining the DRC” — is being promoted as the fourth episode in the season.
A source close to the series clarified that no notes were given about the quality of the episode and the issue likely came down to scheduling. The episode is currently under review as part of a standard process, another source said. TheWrap can also confirm what the episode was about.
During a press conference held in April at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, Vice reporter Walker asked DeSantis to respond to claims that DeSantis was among a group of officers who witnessed a group of inmates being force fed while on hunger strike. In an op-ed for Al-Jazeera, former detainee Mansoor Adayfi described DeSantis as “smiling and laughing” as “I screamed in pain.” At the time, DeSantis’ reaction to Walker’s question was characterized by words such as “melts down,” “fumes” and “explodes.”
“No, no, all that’s BS. Totally BS,” DeSantis said while, as the Daily Beast describes it, “furiously shaking his head.” “Do you honestly believe that’s credible? It’s … 2006, I’m a junior officer, do you honestly think that they would’ve remembered me?” DeSantis also accused Walker of attempting to “spin” a “preordained narrative.”
The pulled “Vice” segment contains the full exchange.
All mentions of the scheduled episode have been removed from Showtime’s site and from its press materials. This will mark the first time an episode of “Vice” has ever been delayed or pulled by either of its parent networks, HBO or Showtime.
“As with all current affairs programming there can be scheduling changes, and we are very much still in discussion about the scheduling of this episode. We are proud of our reporting and of our continuing partnership with Showtime,” a representative from Vice told TheWrap.
Showtime’s response was more to the point. “We don’t comment on scheduling decisions,” a representative from Showtime said.
It’s possible that this delayed episode simply came down to timing. “The Gitmo Candidate and Chipping Away” was originally supposed to premiere the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Four days prior to this scheduled air date, DeSantis announced he was officially joining the 2024 Presidential race. It’s not unheard of to think that Showtime would want to hold out for a weekend during which its DeSantis documentary could dominate headlines rather than be overshadowed by a packed media cycle.
“Vice” originally premiered in 2013 as the docuseries extension of Vice magazine. It ran for six seasons on HBO before it was canceled in 2019. Showtime picked up the series shortly after HBO axed it and aired its first season a year later in 2020. The news series is currently in its fourth season on Showtime with new episodes premiering on Sundays at 8/7c p.m.