On December 3 2022, tweets and posts appeared about attorneys for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) being “forced” to define the popular descriptor “woke,” purportedly responding that it was “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them”:
In addition to the excerpt, the above tweet embedded an article from FloridaPolitics.com. Screenshots of that tweet were shared to Facebook and Reddit, without the clickable link.
One post on the latter platform was on r/SelfAwarewolves, a subreddit to showcase instances when person or people “almost transform into self aware creatures”:
Another variation on the claim was shared to r/florida on December 5 2022. Like the tweet, it linked to an article by FloridaPolitics.com:
A search of recent news articles about DeSantis and the definition of “woke” returned a handful of articles. A December 1 2022 Associated Press piece used the word “woke” and summarized proceedings, but did not reference the exchange mentioned on Twitter:
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wasn’t seeking political retaliation when he removed a prosecutor over abortion and transgender views, but simply wanted to ensure state law would be enforced, the governor’s attorney told a federal judge [on December 1 2022].
Lawyers for Andrew Warren, a Democrat suspended from his twice-elected post as state attorney in Hillsborough County, disagreed, saying it’s clear DeSantis’ action was based on what Warren said and believed and not on his competence as a prosecutor.
DeSantis suspended Warren in August  over the prosecutor’s signing of statements that said he would not pursue criminal charges against seekers or providers of abortion or gender transition treatments, as well as his policies about not charging people with certain minor crimes. Warren is suing to be reinstated.
Lawyers for Warren said the suspension was clearly motivated by politics considering DeSantis made his announcement at a campaign-like rally with cheering supporters during which he attacked “woke” ideology. They noted he made similar statements that night on Fox News.
During the testimony, Warren’s attorney, Jean-Jacques Cabou asked those within DeSantis’ administration what “woke” meant to them.
The governor’s general counsel, Ryan Newman, said, in general, it means “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.” He added that DeSantis doesn’t believe there are systemic injustices in the country, reports Florida Politics.
On December 3 2022, FloridaPolitics.com published “In Andrew Warren suspension trial, Gov. DeSantis officials answer: What does ‘woke’ mean?” It contained a less condensed version of the courtroom banter, in contrast with the tweet.
FloridaPolitics.com paraphrased DeSantis’ Communications Director Taryn Fenske’s response that “woke” described “a general belief in systemic injustices in the country.” The site then quoted DeSantis’ lawyer Ryan Newman’s answers to the same question:
Ryan Newman, DeSantis’ General Counsel, echoed [Fenske’s response] about systemic injustices, specifically regarding the criminal justice system.
“To me it means someone who believes that there are systemic injustices in the criminal justice system and on that basis they can decline to fully enforce and uphold the law,” Newman said.
Asked what “woke” means more generally, Newman said “it would be the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.”
Newman added that DeSantis doesn’t believe there are systemic injustices in the U.S. He also emphasized he believed Warren’s “wokeism” led him to sign the pledge not to prosecute abortion crimes, the primary factor that led to his suspension.
The initial reporting also included commentary from Newman about “systemic injustices” forming a basis upon which entities “can decline to fully enforce and uphold the law.” Newman also was paraphrased as saying DeSantis did not believe that there are systemic injustices” in the United States.
Although the exchange proved extremely popular in tweet form, all iterations we located traced back to FloridaPolitics.com.
We found the reason for that in a December 5 2022 Washington Post editorial, which indicated that the answers were not recorded; instead, FloridaPolitics.com reporter Gray Rohrer transcribed them in a notebook firsthand due to a prohibition on recording during at the courthouse:
Gray Rohrer of the news outlet Florida Politics was in the courtroom [the week ending December 2 2022] as staffers for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) were asked an interesting question: What does “woke” mean? The federal court in Tallahassee where the question came up doesn’t allow for recordings, Rohrer told The Washington Post, but he jotted down the offered responses in his notebook.
Ryan Newman, DeSantis’s general counsel, said the term referred to “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.” Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’s communications director, said that “woke” was “a slang term for … progressive activism,” adding that the term also referred to a belief that there were systemic injustices in the United States.
A viral December 3 2022 tweet claimed that lawyers for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis were “forced” to “define” the term “woke” in court in early December 2022, and that one lawyer stated that “woke” amounted to a “belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.” That response was transcribed by FloridaPolitics.com’s Gray Rohrer, and Rohrer included a response from the same lawyer about selective enforcement of laws. However, the phrasing in the tweet matched Rohrer’s efforts to transcribe courtroom remarks verbatim.