Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) took his most wide-ranging shots at former President Trump in an interview this week with Fox News’s Pier Morgan, criticizing Trump’s leadership style and character as they prepare for a possible collision course on the White House primary field.
Until now, DeSantis has remained coy on Trump as he mulls an expected entry into the 2024 presidential race. But Trump has gone on the offensive against the Florida governor, crowning him with the nickname “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
“I don’t know how to spell the sanctimonious one,” DeSantis said in the interview with Morgan, which was detailed in the New York Post. “I don’t really know what it means, but I kinda like it, it’s long, it’s got a lot of vowels. We’ll go with that, that’s fine.”
He added: “I mean, you can call me whatever you want, just as long as you also call me a winner, because that’s what we’ve been able to do in Florida, is put a lot of points on the board and really take this state to the next level.”
But DeSantis said the name-calling on social media was “background noise” to him, shaking off Trump’s patented confrontational style with opposing candidates.
“It’s not important for me to be fighting with people on social media,” DeSantis said. “It’s not accomplishing anything for the people I represent. So, we really just focus on knocking out victories, day after day, and if I got involved in all the undertow, I would not be able to be an effective governor.”
While other declared and potential Republican candidates for president, such as South Carolina’s former Gov. Nikki Haley and current Sen. Tim Scott, have largely dodged questions about what separates them from Trump, DeSantis, who is seen as the main rival to the former president for the GOP nomination, pointed to Trump’s leadership style as a difference between the two.
“I also think just in terms of my approach to leadership, I get personnel in the government who have the agenda of the people and share our agenda,” he said. “You bring your own agenda in, you’re gone. We’re just not gonna have that. So, the way we run the government, I think, is no daily drama, focus on the big picture and put points on the board.”
DeSantis also said that he would have handled the COVID-19 pandemic differently, arguing he “would have fired” former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci, who was one of the Trump administration’s most prominent voices on the virus and frequently split from the president on the need for more aggressive health measures to prevent the spread of the disease.
DeSantis also reflected on his past rosy relationship with Trump. The former president helped DeSantis rise in stature politically, endorsing him in his 2018 bid to become Florida governor. DeSantis said Trump “changed his tune” when he won reelection overwhelmingly last year.
“The major thing that’s happened that’s changed his tune was my reelection victory,” he said, arguing that Republicans should not be in competition with each other but instead wishing for the success of other GOP officials.
“I want other Republicans to do well,” DeSantis said. “I want them to eclipse me. We’re setting a great standard in Florida, have everyone up their game.”
The back-and-forth between Trump and DeSantis heated up earlier this week, when the governor was asked to weigh on potential charges against the former president coming down in New York over his 2016 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.
“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just — I can’t speak to that,” DeSantis said Monday.
Trump responded angrily on his Truth Social platform: “Ron DeSanctimonious will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS & FAKE STORIES sometime in the future, as he gets older, wiser, and better known.”