Six months before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis officially announced his presidential campaign, former President Trump launched his war of words against the rising conservative, enraging Republicans for launching his offensive just three days before the crucial midterm elections.
Trump’s attacks failed to make a dent in Florida’s support for DeSantis, and while Republicans went on to underperform on the national level, losing the U.S. Senate and only retaking the House by a few seats, DeSantis cruised to an historic 19-point win in Florida, a onetime battleground state.
DeSantis managed to stay out of the mudslinging until only recently, and since DeSantis officially announced his candidacy for president on May 24, both campaigns have ramped up their criticism of the other. The Trump campaign, however, has been repeatedly accused by the other of creating false narratives about DeSantis’ policies.
A recent New York Post report found that Twitter accounts affiliated with Trump’s campaign had community notes adding context to their tweets on at least seven occasions throughout the month of May, while those associated with DeSantis were not slapped with any community notes.
Here are five examples of when Trump and his campaign’s claims about DeSantis have contradicted reality:
Earlier this year, Trump dubbed DeSantis the ‘lockdown governor,’ even though the governor’s restrictions were among the least heavy-handed – and short-lived – in the country.
‘Ron DeSanctimonious wants to cut your Social Security and Medicare,’ Trump wrote on his Truth Social site in February, ‘closed up Florida & its beaches, loves RINOS Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, and Karl Rove (disasters ALL!), is backed by Globalist’s Club for NO Growth, Lincoln Pervert Project, & ‘Uninspired’ Koch — And it only gets worse from there.’
‘Surprise, Ron was a big Lockdown Governor on the China Virus, sealing all beaches and everything else for an extended period of time, was Third Worst in the Nation for COVID-19 Deaths (losing 86,294 People), Third Worst for Total # of Cases, at 7,516,906. Other Republican Governors did MUCH BETTER than Ron and, because I allowed them this ‘freedom,’ never closed their States,’ Trump wrote in March.
However, Trump’s narrative leaves out some very key details. The former president’s own lockdown guidance predated DeSantis’ first and only stay-at-home order in Florida. On March 16, 2020, then-President Trump and his White House Coronavirus Task Force leader, Dr. Anthony Fauci, unveiled their ’15 Days to Slow the Spread’ plan, which recommended that governors shut down schools, restaurants and other public places. While many states closed almost immediately, DeSantis waited more than two weeks to issue his stay-at-home order on April 1, 2020, which lasted a total of 30 days and never returned.
DeSantis has since vowed that the state would never lock down again, and that one of his biggest regrets was not pushing back against the Trump administration’s recommendations.
Trump came under fire last month after he claimed disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ‘did better’ in his COVID-19 response despite Cuomo’s infamous nursing home scandal.
DeSantis pushed back calling the attack ‘very bizarre.’
While Florida had a vastly different approach to the pandemic than lockdown-heavy states like New York, the death rate in Florida remained on par with those states, even after the Delta variant surge in 2021. Today, Florida’s death rate is still on par with New York’s and even lower than lockdown-heavy states like Michigan and New Jersey, despite the Sunshine State holding one of the largest elderly populations in the country, second only to Maine.
Before they became political rivals, Trump repeatedly fawned over DeSantis’ pandemic response and for being one of the first to reopen his state, calling him ‘one of the greatest governors in our country.’
‘And now you’re at your lowest numbers,’ Trump told a crowd in Ocala on Oct. 16, 2020. ‘And you’re open, and you didn’t close.’
‘The lockdowns in Democrat run states are absolutely ruining the lives of so many people – Far more than the damage that would be caused by the China Virus,’ Trump tweeted on Dec. 26, 2020. ‘Cases in California have risen despite the lockdown, yet Florida & others are open & doing well. Common sense please!’
Trump’s campaign falsely claimed last month that DeSantis, a former member of the House, ‘voted for’ Trump-nominated Christopher Wray to become the next FBI director in 2017.
‘DeSanctimonious is now making a show of promising to fire FBI Director Christopher Wray, but DeSantis voted FOR Wray’s confirmation in 2017, praising him as ‘talented, capable & highly respected,” the campaign wrote in a tweet, less than a week after DeSantis vowed to replace Wray if he was elected president.
The remarks quoted a 2017 tweet from DeSantis that read: ‘Christopher Wray is talented, capable & highly respected. POTUS has made an inspired choice & I look forward to working with Director Wray.’ DeSantis’ remarks at the time came in response to a tweet from Trump, who announced that he would be nominating Wray to lead the FBI. In the 2017 announcement, Trump described Wray as ‘a man of impeccable credentials.’
The Trump campaign’s Twitter account was slammed after it resurfaced DeSantis’ tweet, cropping out that he was quote tweeting Trump’s tweet praising Wray.
DeSantis served in the House from 2013 to 2018, but he did not vote in favor of Wray’s confirmation because that is a role fulfilled by Senate members, as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
The Trump campaign claimed over the weekend that DeSantis ‘voted 3 times to raise the retirement age to 70.’
Both candidates have walked back their stances on Social Security reforms.
DeSantis previously criticized Trump for the Social Security attack, pointing to Trump’s 2000 book, ‘The America We Deserve,’ in which the former president argued for raising the retirement age. However, Trump has since reversed those views, repeatedly stating since at least 2015 that he does not want to increase the retirement age.
DeSantis, as a U.S. congressman representing Florida’s 6th district, had also supported proposals that would cut Social Security spending, including raising the age for eligibility of full benefits. In March, however, the governor told Fox News his stance had changed due to consideration of the large elderly population in his state.
‘Look, I have more seniors here than just about anyone as a percentage,’ he said. ‘We are not going to mess with Social Security as Republicans.’
Fair Tax Act:
Trump’s campaign also claimed over the weekend that ‘Ron DeSantis’ ‘Fair Tax Act’ would have raised taxes on working, middle-class families.’
While DeSantis did endorse the Fair Tax Act during his time as a congressman, which would eliminate most taxes like payroll and income in favor of a national sales tax, he has not voiced support for it as governor or as a presidential candidate.
Meanwhile, Trump repeatedly signaled he was open to the idea of a flat tax during his 2016 campaign, and several of Trump’s allies in the House cosponsored the Fair Tax Act just this year, including Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz, Byron Donalds and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
The Trump campaign recently claimed DeSantis was ‘stealing policy’ from Trump after the governor said he wanted a ‘different kind of accreditation’ for colleges in the state of Florida.
‘President Trump proposed this weeks ago. DeSantis is just stealing policy now,’ Trump campaign spokesman Steve Cheung tweeted.
DeSantis did sign legislation last month that banned all state funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs in the state’s universities, and the legislation’s signing came two weeks after Trump said he wanted to go after the college accreditation system.
However, what the Trump campaign did not mention was that DeSantis passed legislation in April 2022 targeting what he described at the time as the ‘accreditation monopoly.’
‘They have an inordinate amount of power to shape what is going on at these universities,’ DeSantis said at the signing. ‘What this bill does here is requires diversity with the accreditations, you can’t just keep going to the same accreditor. I think that’s going to be very significant.’
DeSantis took a step further in January by mandating that all state universities report expenditures and resources used for campus activities that relate to diversity, equity, and inclusion and critical race theory initiatives.
Honorable mention: The ‘broke down’ bus:
The DeSantis campaign busted a claim made Wednesday by Cheung that the bus for the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down had broken down in Des Moines, Iowa.
‘SPOTTED: Tiny @RonDeSantis Super PAC bus broke down on the side of the road in Des Moines. Always Broke Down,’ Cheung wrote in a tweet, which was accompanied by an image of the bus on the side of the road.
Christina Pushaw, the rapid response director for DeSantis’ 2024 campaign, was quick to respond to Cheung’s claim and insisted that people were only ‘unloading luggage’ from the bus when he took the photo.
‘SPOTTED: Steven Cheung standing alone in the middle of the road in Des Moines. Watching people unloading luggage from a bus. . . . Wishing he could hitch a ride,’ Pushaw wrote in the tweet.
‘Sorry. Not interested in getting into the creepy Ron van no matter how much candy you offer,’ Cheung, a longtime Trump political adviser, responded.
Pushaw also called out the Trump campaign on Sunday, accusing it of tweeting a photo of a DeSantis event before it had started.
When reached by Fox News Digital, Cheung said DeSantis’ campaign ‘is built on a house of cards because they know he’s truly a puppet of the swamp.’
‘The facts are that DeSantis locked down his state, oversaw mass vaccination events, armed checkpoints, praised Fauci, voted for the First Step Act, and voted to raise the retirement age. We have the receipts,’ Cheung said. ‘The real question is why DeSantis and his team can’t answer the simple question of how to pronounce his name. If they’re having so much trouble, we have a suggestion for them — DeSanctimonious.’
The DeSantis campaign declined to respond to the Trump campaign’s latest attack.
Earlier Monday, DeSantis told Fox NewsRadio host Brian Kilmeade that the ‘frivolous’ and ‘false smears’ prove that Trump and Democrats recognize him as a threat.
‘The way I’m being attacked, Trump has run almost $20 million in ads negative attacking me, you know, with frivolous and false smears,’ he said. ‘The corporate press is attacking me more than anybody else. Democrats are attacking me. They would not do that if they didn’t think I was a threat. I mean, if they thought that I wasn’t, you know, in shape to really win this thing, they would just be ignoring me. But they’re not. They’re coming after me. I’m the one that’s taken most of the fire. And I think that’s an indication that people know that, yeah, we have what it takes and that we’re a force to be reckoned with.’
Fox News’ Kyle Morris contributed to this report.