Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

DeSantis hits back at Trump

- By Anthony Man

Gov. Ron DeSantis hit back Wednesday at former President Donald Trump, after his onetime champion-turned-foe used social media to amplify an accusation that the governor had once been “grooming” high school girls.

“I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden. That’s how I spend my time. I don’t spend my time trying to smear other Republican­s,” he said when asked about Trump’s social media posts at an Ocala news conference.

Trump, who has declared his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidenti­al nomination, has been increasing­ly critical of DeSantis, who hasn’t declared his candidacy but is also expected to seek the party’s presidenti­al nomination.

DeSantis has played up his own record, such as the size of his reelection win, but he hasn’t responded as strongly to Trump until now.

On Tuesday, in two posts on his Truth Social site, Trump amplified an allegation that DeSantis had been partying with students at a private school in Georgia where he had taught briefly in the early 2000s.

One post he re-truthed included a picture, supposedly of DeSantis and former students. Superimpos­ed on the picture was the statement that, “Here is Ron DeSanctimo­nious grooming high school girls with alcohol as a teacher.” With his re-truth, Trump added his own comment: “That’s not Ron, is it? He would never do such a thing!”

(The Truth Social site characteri­zes sending out someone else’s post, sometimes with commentary, as re-truthing. It’s similar to a retweet on the better-known Twitter platform.)

Trump also re-truthed a post that offered this descriptio­n: “Ron DeSantis was having a ‘drink’ party with his students when he was a high school teacher.”

Trump added his own comment: “No way?”

Ron DeSanctimo­nious is the nickname the former president coined to describe the governor during the final days of the 2022 election campaign as he sought to diminish his potential competitor for the nomination, and termed him an “average” governor “with great public relations.”

Trump famously applied negative nicknames to rivals in the 2016 primaries, including “Liddle Marco” Rubio and “Lyin’ Ted” for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas.

Last week Trump referred to DeSantis using the acronym for Republican in name only, and called him a globalist.

“The real Ron is a RINO GLOBALIST, who closed quickly down Florida and even its beaches,” Trump wrote. “Loved the Vaccines and wasted big money on ‘Testing.’ How quickly people forget!”

Trump’s support propelled DeSantis to the 2018 Republican gubernator­ial nomination and a general election win that fall. Trump has made clear he regards DeSantis as an ingrate.

At the Ocala news conference, DeSantis was asked if possible changes to Florida defamation law he discussed in a roundtable on Tuesday could be used to respond to such comments.

He said he didn’t need additional protection from defamation, but “little” people do.

“I have a platform. It’s different for me because I can fight back and people just know, I’ve faced defamatory stuff every single day I’ve been governor, that’s just the nature of it. But I have a platform to fight back.

“A lot of these other people that are more little, they don’t necessaril­y have a platform to fight back and so in terms of our reforms, I really want to empower them more so than people that occupy high positions like me. It just goes with the territory. You got to have a thick skin. It’s also just practicall­y speaking I would not take time out of being governor to be filing fighting lawsuits. It’s just not, not practical in terms of what we’re doing.”

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