Then-President Donald Trump greets then-Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis during a campaign rally at the Hertz Arena on October 31, 2018 in Estero, Florida.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s COVID-19 response had been held up as a model by many on the right.
On Thursday, Trump raged against DeSantis and said he unnecessarily chose to “close up” Florida.
Florida’s COVID-19 response was relatively hands-off and schools and businesses were largely open.
Former President Donald Trump appeared to criticize Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s COVID-19 response, which was widely praised and held up as a model by many on the right.
Trump made the comment in a statement provided to Insider and a series of Truth Social posts in which he raged against DeSantis and the news media. The statement came after some Republicans blamed Trump for the GOP’s disappointing midterms performance, although DeSantis easily coasted to reelection.
“NewsCorp, which is Fox, the Wall Street Journal, and the no longer great New York Post (bring back Col!), is all in for Governor Ron DeSanctimonious,” Trump began, using a nickname for the governor he first debuted publicly on Saturday, “an average REPUBLICAN Governor with great Public Relations, who didn’t have to close up his State, but did, unlike other Republican Governors, whose overall numbers for a Republican, were just average—middle of the pack—including COVID, and who has the advantage of SUNSHINE, where people from badly run States up North would go no matter who the Governor was, just like I did!”
Trump’s claim that DeSantis, unlike other Republican governors, closed up his state when he didn’t have to ran counter to a popular belief among the right that Florida correctly responded to COVID-19 by remaining relatively open. DeSantis himself in 2021 bragged about the state’s open schools and businesses, as well as its COVID-19 outcomes.
Florida’s COVID-19 response was highly controversial. According to data compiled by The New York Times, Florida has the twelfth-highest number of deaths per 100,000 residents in the nation, surpassed almost entirely by states with below-average vaccination rates. But even as some questioned the tangible successes of the state’s approach, the belief that Florida, and by extension DeSantis, won the pandemic has remained strong among conservatives.
Trump’s criticism of DeSantis comes as some on the right have openly said they want him to step aside so the GOP can rally around the Florida governor in 2024. The former president however remains defiant, with the latest statement being his strongest condemnation of DeSantis yet, and an indication of what’s to come if the former allies announce presidential runs.
Representatives for DeSantis did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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