Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) rejected former President Donald Trump’s claim that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo did a better job at handling the COVID-19 pandemic than he did.
DeSantis said Trump’s claim was “very bizarre,” considering Florida had a lower “excess mortality rate” than both New York and California.
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“But if he thinks Cuomo handled it better, that’s an indication if something like this were to happen again, he would double down and do what he did in March of 2020,” DeSantis said on the Ben Shapiro Show on Friday. “That was a difficult situation. We didn’t have all the facts, and people can kind of understand if you did things that may not have worked out.”
He continued: “But we all have to sit here today in 2023, look back on March of 2020, and say, ‘Faucism was wrong. Faucism was destructive. Faucism has set us on this path with the CARES Act and the Fed printing money, creating inflation, and creating some of the economic problems that we have today.’ So, if you could do it again, would he do the same thing? I sure hope not.”
DeSantis added that National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci should have been fired during Trump’s administration instead of elevated.
The comments come after Trump asserted that Florida had the third-highest death rate in the country in 2021, despite having the 18th-highest death rate per 100,000 residents that year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York had the fourth-highest death rate.
Trump has also criticized DeSantis for shutting down the state, including closing beaches, claiming that other governors did not. But DeSantis locked down Florida later than most states, issuing a stay-at-home order in April 2020 and lifting it in September.
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Cuomo has faced heavy criticism for his handling of the pandemic, especially when it comes to nursing homes. A report by New York Attorney General Letitia James found that Cuomo drastically undercounted the deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes. Cuomo eventually resigned as governor in 2021 amid a sexual harassment scandal.
The exchange comes after DeSantis entered the presidential race on Wednesday, shortly after Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) entered the race on Monday. However, DeSantis is the only candidate to pose a serious challenge to Trump currently.