Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has finally taken the gloves off and launched a scorching attack on his former mentor President Donald Trump.
In an exclusive wide-ranging interview with me airing on Fox Nation’s “Piers Morgan Uncensored” on Thursday, he said “stay tuned” about his widely expected announcement that he’s running for president and declared: I have what it takes to be president and I can beat Biden.
But it’s what he said about Trump that will touch off a firestorm in the Republican Party.
For months, DeSantis has said nothing as Trump escalated his verbal attacks on him, tagging his ex-protégé “Ron DeSanctimonious” and “Meatball Ron.”
On Monday, Trump went crazy after DeSantis took a shot at him over his likely indictment over accused payoffs to ‘ex-lover’ Stormy Daniels, saying, “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.”
The implied morally censorious tone provoked a furious response from Trump, who blew up on his own 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 when he’s unfairly and illegally attacked by a woman, even classmates that are ‘underage’ (or possibly a man!). I’m sure he will want to fight these misfits just like I do!”
It was clear that the governor has had enough of Trump’s constant baiting and felt ready to take him on in what could end up being a ferocious battle for the White House.
And in a series of jabs at his likely biggest Republican nominee rival, DeSantis slammed Trump over his character failings, chaotic leadership style, and for his handling of the COVID pandemic — especially in keeping controversial health chief Dr. Anthony Fauci in his post helping to run the White House Coronavirus Taskforce.
Trump even awarded a presidential commendation medal to Fauci in one of his last acts as president.
When I asked DeSantis to cite specific differences between him and Trump, he said: “Well I think there’s a few things. The approach to COVID was different. I would have fired somebody like Fauci. I think he got way too big for his britches, and I think he did a lot of damage.”
DeSantis also slammed Trump’s chaotic, self-obsessed, and divisive management style, saying:
“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. 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 and I think that’s something that’s very important.”
As for the rude nicknames, he mocked:
“I don’t know how to spell the sanctimonious one. 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. 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.”
Until now, DeSantis has never engaged with any of Trump’s regular attempts to provoke him and he doesn’t intend to make a habit of it.
“To me, it’s just background noise,” he said. “It’s not important for me to be fighting with people on social media. 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 under tow I would not be able to be an effective Governor. So, I don’t think it’s something that makes sense for me.”
There was a time when DeSantis would have never dared talk this way about Trump whose presidential endorsement of him when he first ran for Governor almost certainly got him over the line in a paper-thin win over Andrew Gillum by just 34,000 votes.
I reminded him of what Trump had tweeted before that 2018 election: “Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader. Yale and then Harvard who would make a great Governor of Florida. He loves our country. He’s a true fighter.”
DeSantis, 44, chuckled: “Things have changed a little bit, I guess. It is what it is.”
UPDATE: I spent over an hour yesterday interviewing @GovRonDeSantis at his Governor mansion in Florida. We talked Trump, Biden, Ukraine, love, grief, chocolate cake & his likely run for President. He’s never given a more personal or revealing interview. Stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/nDYG5vS4JF
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 21, 2023