As RedState reported earlier, former President Donald Trump sat down recently for an interview with Megyn Kelly where a variety of topics were discussed including his handling of the COVID pandemic, his championing of the COVID vaccines, as well as where he stood on the issue of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who led Trump’s coronavirus task force in 2020.
During the interview, Trump took aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, claiming as he has before, without evidence, that DeSantis was a big fan of Fauci’s during the COVID outbreak and that DeSantis kept his state and everything in it locked down longer than he’s led people to believe:
Trump: “But I wasn’t, I was not a big fan of Fauci. If you look at Ron DeSanctimonious, he was, this guy said the greatest things. I can give you articles, that Fauci is great. He’s wonderful. We love him. We don’t do anything without Fauci. This went on for months.”
Kelly: “But he didn’t listen to Fauci.”
Trump: “He did a hundred percent. Look –”
Kelly: “He shut down Florida for a month.”
Trump: “I will give you- He shut down Florida –”
Kelly: “For a month.”
Trump: “Oh, he shut it down for a lot of longer.”
“He shut down the beaches,” Trump went on to allege. “He shut down the roads. He shut down hospitals. He was shutting down everything. He also had long lines of people getting the jab.”
“The guy tried to change history in Florida,” Trump also said, insinuating DeSantis is trying to rewrite his record on his management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Sunshine State.
Megyn: "But he [DeSantis] didn't listen to Fauci."
Trump: "He shut down Florida."
Megyn: "For a month." pic.twitter.com/1MmWjXUcRn
— Joel Weingart (@JoelWeingart_) September 14, 2023
Though DeSantis has countered similar criticisms from Trump before, the response he gave this time around was one of his most pointed yet. The transcript below is a partial one taken from the tweet but make sure to watch the full video below:
Trump “used to praise Florida for having been open. He used to say I was one of the country’s great governors. He said we handled COVID correctly and brilliantly. He was on record, always saying that. Now, because I’m a threat to him, he’s now changing his tune…”
“A lot of the attacks that I suffered from through the balance of 2020 was the media in Florida leveraging the Trump White House against me and saying, ‘oh, the governor isn’t following the Trump White House directives. He has restaurants open, he has schools open, he has all that stuff.’ So they really used that White House Task Force as a cudgel to try to beat me over the head to try to portray me as being reckless because we had opened the state…”
“And here’s the thing: I fought against Fauci when he was popular. It’s easy for Republicans to ding him now because he’s unpopular with the broader electorate. Back then, Donald Trump used to cite Fauci’s poll numbers as a reason why Fauci was somebody that should be listened to. He said, ‘Fauci has got these great poll numbers, but we’re listening to Fauci, why don’t we have the same poll numbers?’ And his campaign for reelection, in October of 2020, they were running videos where Fauci is bragging that ‘Donald Trump did everything I told him to do.’ They were putting that out as a positive message for their candidate!”
“And then, of course, he did give Fauci a presidential commendation his last day in office. @megynkelly asked him about it, and he said, like, ‘what was that?’ Was that the immaculate commendation that just happened to happen? It said, ‘Donald Trump awards Fauci this commendation.’ So I thought it was really pathetic to sit there and listen to that drivel. It is totally false.”
DeSantis also brought up the fact that at one point he (DeSantis) was selling anti-Fauci t-shirts because he had become well-known (and infamous in some circles) as the anti-Fauci governor. Watch:
Stop what you’re doing and watch this.
🔥 DESANTIS GOES OFF on Trump’s false attacks over COVID and his many excuses for not firing Anthony Fauci:
Trump “used to praise Florida for having been open. He used to say I was one of the country's great governors. He said we handled… pic.twitter.com/ydphVZmYTg
— DeSantis War Room 🐊 (@DeSantisWarRoom) September 14, 2023
As we see the uptick in COVID cases this fall, look for the debate around vaccines, masks, lockdowns, and the like to take center stage in the public debate including upcoming GOP presidential debates as this issue comes into sharp focus ahead of the GOP presidential primaries.
This in my opinion is going to be an area where DeSantis especially excels because he was among the first GOP governors in the country to reevaluate the data and the “15/30 days to slow the spread” push being done by Trump’s public health officials including Trump himself and say I’m going to take a different approach.
The interesting thing here, and I’m not sure DeSantis has brought this up, is that in the early days of the pandemic, he said “Trump’s demeanor” caused him to change course and issue the 30-day stay-at-home order that came in late March of 2020:
“The President just the other day announced they are going to do a 30-day extension for the current guidelines, and although the guidelines don’t call for any new actions beyond what was there previously … I think it is clear that that represents effectively a national pause,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to be in this for another 30 days. That is just the reality we find ourselves in.” DeSantis added that “given those circumstances” he was “directing all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”
“It is a very serious situation,” DeSantis said of the virus. “When you see the President up there and his demeanor the last couple of days, that’s not necessarily how he always is.”
In response, Trump called him a “great governor” who “knows exactly what he’s doing.” 30 days later, however, DeSantis announced his reopen plan, which put him at odds with Trump – who had already criticized Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for taking a similar approach.
Trump’s claim about DeSantis shutting down beaches left out the fact that it was only two beaches that were shut down, and at the time DeSantis said that was after consultation with local officials and consideration of CDC recommendations. DeSantis’ March 17, 2020 executive order as it related to beaches mainly revolved around limiting large groups gathering there and his stance was to largely leave it up to local officials as to how to handle them being open.
As for Trump’s claim that DeSantis shut down hospitals, I have no idea where that came from. DeSantis did issue an EO on March 20, 2020, related to medical facilities, but that was to direct them to not perform elective procedures in anticipation there would be a lot of COVID cases. The idea, according to the EO, was to preserve medical equipment and free up other resources including staff so they’d be available for only essential services that pertained to the well-being of patients, including obviously procedures that could save their lives.