Former President Donald Trump is slamming Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for shifting positions on the Covid-19 vaccines for political purposes as the fast-rising governor reportedly prepares for a White House bid.
After an uncharacteristic silence and even listlessness following his 2024 presidential candidacy announcement last November, the twice impeached ex-president hit the campaign trail over the weekend, vising New Hampshire and South Carolina, where he displayed the pugilistic approach that endeared him to the country’s hard right.
While aboard his refurbished Boeing 757 en route to New Hampshire on Saturday, Trump suggested to reporters that DeSantis's anti-vaccine position was political posturing, given that the governor had ordered strict restrictions across his state at the onset of the pandemic.
“There are Republican governors that did not close their states,” Trump said. “Florida was closed for a long period of time.”
DeSantis — who got a Johnson and Johnson covid vaccine in April 2021 and once implored Floridians to “get vaccinated” because “the vaccines protect you” — and his team are “trying to rewrite [the] history” of their Covid-19 vaccine response, Trump added, according to CNN.
“I had governors that decided not to close a thing, and that was up to them,” Trump, an early proponent of covid-19 vaccination himself, told reporters, seeking to distance himself from the now-hot button topic.
The Florida governor didn’t just advocate for vaccines and put forth executive orders limiting in-person gatherings and closing entertainment establishments. His administration threatened in February 2021 to withhold covid-19 vaccines from jurisdictions that criticized its decision to roll out the coveted shots in heavily Republican areas of Florida first.
However, the governor has since changed his tune and attacked the covid-19 vaccines, their manufacturers, and the Centers for Disease Control so often, he is now a figurehead for the far-right’s anti-vaccine, anti-restriction, and pro-freedom movements.
Far-right commentators of the vaccine fearmongering kind have suggested that Trump would be wise to go the anti-vaccine route to further pander to the ultraconservative base, lest he loses ground to DeSantis.
Christina Bobb, an attorney for Trump’s 2024 campaign, told conspiracy-peddling right-wing host Stew Peters, who questioned the defeated president’s support for “this bio-weapon injection, that Trump was poised to change his covid-19 vaccine stance, too.
“I suspect he will fully support the MAGA base and the way they feel about this, and he will move forward with the will of the American people,” Bobb said.
The row over early covid-19 vaccine positions was one of Trump’s first campaign trail attacks on DeSantis, who some polls have shown leading the potentially crowded of Republican 2024 presidential candidates.
In his rant on “Trump Force One,” the former president again took credit for DeSantis’ 2018 ascension to governorship, saying, “Ron would have not been governor if it wasn’t for me.”
“So when I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal,” Trump added.