Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis cast himself as a pragmatic leader whose no-nonsense style could propel him to the White House, dismissing former President Trump’s recent criticisms as nothing more than “background noise” that isn’t worth engaging.
The comments came during a wide-ranging interview with Piers Morgan, another frequent target of Trump’s derision, that will air on Fox Nation this Thursday.
“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,” DeSantis said, as Morgan detailed in a preview of the interview in the New York Post.
“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.”
The interview took place on Monday just hours after DeSantis addressed a potential indictment of Trump in New York related to hush-money payments that the former president allegedly made to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.
DeSantis ripped into Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as a “Soros-funded prosecutor” who is “pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office,” but also took a subtle shot at Trump for the actions underlying the potential legal trouble.
“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 at a press conference earlier on Monday.
DeSantis doubled down on those comments in the interview with Morgan.
“Well, there’s a lot of speculation about what the underlying conduct is. That is purported to be it, and the reality is that’s just outside my wheelhouse,” DeSantis told Morgan. “I mean that’s just not something that I can speak to.”
The Florida governor, who is yet to announce his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election but told Morgan to “stay tuned,” also said that “truth is essential” and personal integrity matters for anyone in a position of power.
“At the end of the day as a leader,” DeSantis told Morgan. “You really want to look to people like our Founding Fathers, like what type of character, it’s not saying that you don’t ever make a mistake in your personal life, but I think what type of character are you bringing? So, somebody who really set the standard is George Washington because he always put the Republic over his own personal interest. When we won the American Revolution, Washington surrendered his sword.”
Trump took to TRUTH Social to criticize DeSantis after the initial comments at Monday’s press conference.
“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!),” Trump posted, alluding to unsubstantiated claims about DeSantis. “I’m sure he will want to fight these misfits just like I do!”
DeSantis dismissed the name-calling as “background noise,” telling Morgan that it’s “not important for me to be fighting with people on social media.”
“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,” DeSantis told Morgan.
“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.”
Others in the former president’s orbit criticized DeSantis on Tuesday for doubling down on the criticism of Trump, with Donald Trump Jr. tweeting that DeSantis is running “to the liberal media on orders from his RINO establishment owners to attack my father.”
Taylor Budowich, a former spokesperson for Trump who now runs a super PAC supporting his 2024 bid, tweeted on Tuesday that “DeSantis is choosing to go off half-cocked and take shots on some low-rent vlog.”
“DeSantis’ terrible political instincts are being reflected in all the public polls as he flames out faster than [Piers Morgan’s] ratings,” Budowich tweeted.
Trump has gained ground on DeSantis recently among Republicans, according to a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday, which found that 41% of GOP voters would like to see Trump as the 2024 nominee and 27% favor DeSantis. The two were tied at 33% in February, while DeSantis had a 13% lead in December.