Donald Trump has reportedly described Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, expected among political analysts as a likely contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, as “fat,” “phony,” and “whiny,” according to New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman.
The White House reporter, adapting her book Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America in The Atlantic, claims that Mr Trump’s aides have heard the former president drawing an unflattering comparison between the governor and former 2016 GOP candidate Chris Christie, whom Mr Trump has called an “opportunist.”
“I heard that Trump was describing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in similar terms, calling him ‘fat,’ ‘phony,’ and ‘whiny,’ while claiming credit for making his candidacy in 2018,” Ms Haberman writes.
Mr Trump also reportedly took credit for the governor’s election in 2018, when he narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. At the time, then-President Trump described Mr DeSantis as a “great friend” and a “tough cookie”.
Both men reportedly spoke frequently while the former president was in office, but “those days are gone,” an aide told The Washington Post.
Mr DeSantis has not publicly announced any designs to run for president in 2024, and he has repeatedly said that he intends to run for and remain Florida’s governor. But his rising national profile has reportedly irked Mr Trump as he sets his sights on returning to the White House.
His name has appeared on several GOP straw polls weighing 2024 options in recent months, falling to second place behind Mr Trump, while his campaign cash has eclipsed the former president’s hauls within the first six months of the year. Mr DeSantis has raised nearly $180m, breaking fundraising records among governors.
While running for re-election against Democratic contender and former congressman Charlie Crist, the governor also has traveled across the US to rally alongside Trump-backed candidates in battleground states leading up to 2022 midterm elections.
Here's what Trump privately says about DeSantis, according to aides: "Fat," "phony," "whiny" https://t.co/IL0plip2t8
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) September 25, 2022
The governor – who has advanced an “America First” agenda with his own combative and controversial campaign targeting Covid-19 guidance, transgender healthcare, and classroom instruction on issues related to race and gender – has recently faced widespread scrutiny for flying Venzuelan migrants in Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.
Last week, Governor DeSantis mentioned Mr Trump while defending the plan, criticising what he has characterised as Democratic officials’ failure at the US-Mexico border.
He said that “sanctuary” cities were an attempt “to virtue signal against Trump and do all this other stuff.”
“They’re basically doing it so that they feel good, but they don’t want to actually have to deal with the consequences of the policies that they advocate for all of you,” he said during an event in Wisconsin.
The former president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, meanwhile, criticised Mr DeSantis’s plan, suggesting migrants are being used a “political pawns.”