“We can confirm that the Governor will not attend the rally in Sarasota. He spoke with President Trump, who agreed that this was the right decision, as the Governor’s duty is to be in Surfside making sure the families and community have what they need in the aftermath of the tragic building collapse,” said Christina Pushaw, press secretary to the governor, in a statement.
“Governor DeSantis would have gone to this event in normal circumstances. He is sure the rally will draw a big crowd on this holiday weekend, as many Floridians are excited to attend,” she added.
The New York Times first reported Mr DeSantis’ decision to skip the rally. The governor is a close ally of the former president’s, and sought to probe his MAGA bonafides during his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, reading one of Mr Trump’s books to his infant child. Mr DeSantis is also a potential 2024 presidential contender, which could set up a clash between Mr Trump and the governor.
Mr DeSantis was in Surfside, Florida, on Saturday morning for a press conference to update the public on the current search and rescue efforts from the Champlain Towers South residential building collapse.
There have been 24 confirmed deaths and 124 people still missing, officials said on Saturday.
The governor has been meeting with the families of those missing while also assisting officials in determining if the still-standing portion of the condominium should be demolished ahead of a tropical storm that’s expected to hit Florida this coming week.
All of this has likely influenced the governor’s decision to not attend Mr Trump’s rally – scheduled for Saturday night in Sarasota, Florida.
Reports earlier this week indicated that the governor’s office asked Mr Trump to postpone the rally amid the building collapse, but Mr DeSantis and his team have denied those stories.
Mr DeSantis “is focusing on his duties as Governor and the tragedy in Surfside, and has never suggested or requested that events planned in different parts of Florida – from the Stanley Cup finals to President Trump’s rally – should be canceled,” the governor’s office said in a statement Wednesday, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
“He wants all Floridians to enjoy the holiday weekend and celebrate Independence Day however they choose, while keeping the Surfside families and first responders in their prayers,” the statement added.
Mr DeSantis spoke with the former president, “who agreed that it was the right decision, because the Governor’s duty is to be in Surfside,” The New York Times reports.
A spokesperson for Mr Trump, Liz Harrington, defended the former president’s decision to hold the political rally amid the Champlain Towers South collapse given the location of the event was “three-and-a-half hours away, approximately the same distance from Boston to New York, and will not impact any of the recovery efforts.”
She told The New York Times that Mr Trump “has instructed his team to collect relief aid for Surfside families both online and on-site at the Sarasota rally”.
Mr DeSantis was anticipated to be a potential 2024 presidential candidate for the Republican Party. This week he appeared alongside Joe Biden in Surfside when the president came to visit the site of the collapse and meet with families.