Trump targets DeSantis in the campaign for his management of the pandemic
(CNN) — Former US President Donald Trump took aim at Ron DeSantis on Saturday, alleging that the Florida governor and his team are “trying to rewrite history” regarding their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, calling the possible candidacy presidential election of his Republican rival as “very disloyal”.
“There were Republican governors who didn’t shut down their states,” Trump told reporters while aboard his plane. “Florida was shut down for a long time.”
“They try to rewrite history,” he added. CNN has reached out to DeSantis for comment.
In March 2020, the Governor of Florida issued an executive order to close bars and nightclubs, urging people to follow guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit gatherings on beaches. to no more than 10 people. As early as September, DeSantis signed an executive order authorizing the full opening of restaurants and bars, drawing criticism from public health officials due to the covid-19 cap that fall.
Trump defended his handling of the pandemic, saying he was leaving decisions up to governors.
“I had governors who decided not to close anything and that was up to them,” he said. The former president also took aim at DeSantis’ shift in stance on vaccines, saying the Florida governor had “changed his tune a lot.”
That claim comes after DeSantis asked state lawmakers this month to apply permanent sanctions to companies that require all employees to get a Covid-19 vaccination.
The rivalry with Trump looms over every move DeSantis makes. Their relationship dates back to the governor’s 2018 primary campaign, when Trump’s endorsement helped the little-known congressman win the nomination. A viral ad featuring DeSantis and his family, including two young children, highlighted his loyalty to Trump.
But as the talk of 2024 has spread in recent months, when Trump once again declared his candidacy for the presidential nomination and DeSantis won re-election with a 19-point landslide victory in November, the disagreement between the two grew more and more. Before and after the midterm elections, Trump derided DeSantis as your “average governor” and taunted him with the nickname “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
On Saturday, during a campaign event that took him to New Hampshire and South Carolina, Trump again took credit for helping elevate DeSantis during his 2018 gubernatorial bid, saying, “Ron wouldn’t have been governor if he wasn’t for me”.
“So when I hear that he could run, I think it’s very unfair,” Trump said.
While taking aim at DeSantis, Trump told reporters aboard his plane that Nikki Haley, who served as his ambassador to the United Nations, called him in recent days to inform him that she is considering running for president by 2024.
“I talked to her for a while, I said, ‘Look, you know, follow your heart if you want to run,’” Trump said. “She said publicly that she ‘she would never run me against my president, she was a great president.'”
Trump noted that he told Haley that she “should do it.”
Haley, who recently moved her top advisers to Charleston, is said to be weighing the timing of a campaign launch right now, as she doesn’t want to be the first to take on Trump alone. In 2021, she said that she would not challenge Trump if he ran for the White House again in 2024.
CNN has reached out to Haley for comment.
CNN’s Kit Maher contributed to this report.