Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued some rare criticism of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, saying truth is an “essential” quality in a leader and contrasting his potential rival with the character of the Founding Fathers.
DeSantis spoke with British journalist Piers Morgan as part of a sweeping interview about his presidential ambitions. The governor has largely avoided needling Trump but took swipes at the former president’s leadership style and his legal woes surrounding a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016.
“At the end of the day, as a leader you really want to look to people like our Founding Fathers,” DeSantis said. “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? … I think the person is more about how you handle your public duties and the kind of character you bring to that endeavor.”
DeSantis also pointed to Trump’s leadership style, backing away from what he called the former president’s “daily drama.”
“You bring your own agenda in, you’re gone,” he said. “We’re just not going to 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.”
He went on to say that voters needed to “agree that there’s a certain reality to the world we live in,” an apparent dig at Trump’s penchant for lies and misinformation after his 2020 reelection loss.
“Truth is essential,” DeSantis said. “We have to agree that there’s a certain reality to the world we live in, and if we can just create our own facts, then we’re never going to be able to agree on anything or never really be able to do policy in a way that makes sense, and so, yes, it’s not your truth or my truth, it’s the truth.”
Despite that sentiment, the governor said that were he in charge during the COVID-19 pandemic, he would have fired Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases.
The interview — published in the New York Post, a key tentpole in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire — came just hours after DeSantis took a not-so-subtle jab at Trump’s potential indictment related to the Daniels hush money case.
“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” DeSantis said Monday during a news conference. “I just, I can’t speak to that.”
The governor did level criticism at the Manhattan district attorney and suggested the investigation is politically motivated. But his statement prompted immediate outrage from the former president.
“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 raged on his Truth Social media network. “I’m sure he will want to fight these misfits just like I do!”
DeSantis added that the barbs about his name don’t bother him, saying it wasn’t important for him “to be fighting with people on social media.”
“To me, it’s just background noise,” the governor said.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has signaled his office is likely to level criminal charges against Trump for his role in the $130,000 payment to Daniels during the waning days of his 2016 presidential campaign.