DeSantis, a close Trump ally, said he was involved in the early days of the White House’s response to the pandemic and was advising the president. But he was surprised when Trump made the decision that shut down a large part of the American economy.
“I never thought in February, early March, that (coronavirus) would shut down the country,” the Republican governor told hosts of the conservative podcast Ruthless during an episode taped Thursday. “I just didn’t. 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 the coronavirus response team led by Vice President Mike Pence and included other public health experts. But the decision was made by Trump, and DeSantis eventually followed in the White House’s footsteps, closing Florida schools, government buildings, gyms, bars and restaurant dining rooms and advising Florida residents to stay home.
This isn’t the first time DeSantis has speculated about the measures the Trump administration has taken to slow the spread of the virus. In November, DeSantis questioned whether banning flights from China, the epicenter of the initial outbreak, was effective.
“I was probably the first governor in January 2020 to call for restrictions on travel from China,” DeSantis said. “I supported President Trump when he did that.” “But we have to take a step back and admit that these travel restrictions haven’t worked.”
Trump regards the Chinese travel ban as one of the defining decision points of his response to the pandemic, and he has kept it in place until the end of his presidency.
DeSantis’ comments Thursday came on the heels of reports that Trump had secretly grumbled about the disloyalty of his former protectors. In talks with allies, previously reported by CNN, Trump expressed his displeasure that DeSantis, one of the GOP’s most talked-about leaders, has refused to publicly disqualify the 2024 presidential nomination if Trump seeks another four-year term.
“I watched an interview with two politicians and one of the questions was, ‘Have you got a booster shot? Because they got vaccinated and they answer like this – in other words, the answer is “yes” but they don’t want to say it, because they know nothing.”