(Trends Wide) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said one of his biggest regrets in office was not speaking “much louder” in March 2020, when former President Donald Trump advised the nation to stay home to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus.
DeSantis, a close Trump ally, said he was involved in the early days of the White House’s response to the pandemic and had been offering advice to the president. But he was surprised when Trump made the decision that shut down much of the US economy.
“I never thought in February, early March, that (the coronavirus) would lead to the country being shut down,” the Republican governor told hosts of the conservative “Ruthless” podcast during an episode taped Thursday. “I just didn’t do it. I didn’t think that was on the radar.”
DeSantis blamed “people like” Dr. Anthony Fauci for advising Trump to consider a shutdown. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, was part of a coronavirus response team that was led by former Vice President Mike Pence and included other public health experts. But the decision was Trump’s, and DeSantis ultimately followed the White House’s lead, closing Florida schools, government buildings, gyms, bars and restaurant dining rooms and advising Floridians to stay home.
This is not the first time that DeSantis has questioned measures taken by the Trump administration to curb the spread of the virus. In November, DeSantis questioned whether the ban on flights from China, the epicenter of the initial outbreak, was effective.
“I was probably the first governor in January 2020 to call for travel restrictions from China. I supported President Trump when he did that,” DeSantis said. “But we have to step back and recognize that those travel restrictions just didn’t work.”
Trump sees the Chinese travel ban as one of the signature decision points of his response to the pandemic, and he stuck with it until the end of his presidency.
DeSantis’ comment Thursday follows reports that Trump privately complained about his former protégé’s lack of loyalty. In conversations with allies, previously reported by Trends Wide, Trump expressed disgust that DeSantis, one of the GOP’s most talked about leaders, refused to publicly rule out a 2024 presidential bid if Trump seeks another four-year term.
In fact, days before DeSantis’ podcast appearance, Trump appeared to catch the Republican governor’s eye during an interview published Tuesday night. Trump has described politicians who won’t say whether they received a coronavirus booster shot as “cowards.” The joke was seen as a thinly veiled swipe at DeSantis, who refused to share his vaccination status during a widely shared December interview with Fox News host Maria Bartiromo.
“I saw a couple of politicians interviewed and one of the questions was: ‘Did you get a booster?’ Because they had the vaccine and they’re responding, in other words, the answer is ‘yes’ but they don’t want to say it, because they don’t have the guts,” Trump told OAN.