Ron DeSantis: Trump says Florida governor is trying to ‘rewrite history’ on his Covid-19 record

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Former President Donald Trump took aim at Ron DeSantis on Saturday, claiming the Florida governor and his team are “trying to rewrite history” regarding the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and called out his Republican rival’s potential presidential run “very disloyal”.

“There are Republican governors who haven’t closed their states,” Trump told reporters aboard his plane. “Florida was closed for a long period of time.”

“They are trying to rewrite history,” he added. CNN has reached out to DeSantis for comment.

In March 2020, the Governor of Florida issued an executive order closing bars and nightclubs, urging people to follow US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to limit beach gatherings to no more than 10 people. That September, DeSantis signed an order authorizing the full opening of restaurants and bars, which drew criticism from public health officials due to the peak of Covid-19 that fall.

Trump defended his handling of the pandemic, saying he left the decisions to governors.

“I had governors who decided not to close anything and that was up to them,” he said. The former president also criticized DeSantis’s change in stance on vaccines, saying the Florida governor “has changed his tone a lot.”

That allegation comes after DeSantis called on state lawmakers this month to make permanent existing penalties for companies that require all employees to receive the Covid-19 vaccination.

The rivalry with Trump looms over every move DeSantis makes. Their relationship dates back to the governor’s 2018 primary campaign, when a Trump endorsement helped the little-known congressman win the nomination. A viral ad featuring DeSantis and his family, including two young children, highlighted his loyalty to Trump.

But as talk of 2024 has swirled in recent months, as Trump re-declared his presidential candidacy and DeSantis was re-elected in a 19-point landslide in November, the pair grew increasingly at odds. Before and after the midterm election, Trump derided DeSantis as an “average governor” and mocked him with the purported nickname “Ron DeSanctimonious.”

On Saturday, during his first major campaign for New Hampshire and South Carolina, Trump again took credit for helping elevate DeSantis during his 2018 gubernatorial run, saying “Ron wouldn’t have been governor if it weren’t for me.”

“So when I hear he can run, I consider that very unfair,” Trump said.

As he took aim at DeSantis, Trump told reporters aboard his plane that Nikki Haley – who served as his ambassador to the United Nations – called him in recent days to let him know that he is considering launching a presidential bid in 2024.

“I talked to her a little bit, I said, ‘Look, you know, follow your heart if you want to run,’” Trump said. “She said publicly that ‘I would never run against my president, he was a great president’.”

Trump said he told Haley she “should do this”.

Haley, who recently moved her top advisers to Charleston, is said to be weighing whether to launch a campaign at this time, not wanting to be the first to take on Trump alone. In 2021, she said she would not challenge Trump if he ran again for the White House in 2024.

CNN has reached out to Haley for comment.

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