Trump Claims Ron DeSantis 'Begged Him' for Gubernatorial Endorsement: 'Tears Coming Down from His Eyes'

Rift Between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump Spills Into Public View
Rift Between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump Spills Into Public View

Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Ron DeSantis (left), Donald Trump

As speculation about a Ron DeSantis-Donald Trump presidential matchup mounts, the former president is claiming that the Florida governor once "begged" him for an endorsement, with "tears coming down from his eyes."

Speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday, 76-year-old Trump explained how he came to endorse DeSantis in his ultimately successful bid for governor in 2018.

Trump alleged that DeSantis, then a U.S. representative running for governor, was "dead" in the race until he secured the former president's endorsement.

"Ron DeSantis got elected because of me. You remember he had nothing. He was dead, he was leaving the race. He came over and he begged me, begged me for an endorsement," Trump alleged to Hewitt. "He was getting ready to drop out."

Trump continued: "He said, 'If you endorse me, I'll win' and there were tears coming down from his eyes."

Trump has a well-documented penchant for exaggerating the behavior of others, particularly when it comes to those who he believes have wronged him. He has previously alleged that Republican Mitt Romney — who grew to be one of Trump's toughest conservative critics during his time in office — once begged for his endorsement, a similar claim he has made about Elon Musk allegedly asking him for government subsidies.

RELATED: Trump Lashes Out at Ron DeSantis Amid Rumors of a 2024 Campaign: 'It's Always About Loyalty'

Trump undoubtedly has had an impact on DeSantis' early political career, with his endorsement helping the now-governor win the 2018 Republican primary against the long-held favorite for the role, former Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam.

But Trump has since suggested that early endorsement should have led to more "loyalty" from 44-year-old DeSantis.

Following a campaign event in South Carolina last week, the former president told the Associated Press that it would be "a great act of disloyalty" if the governor were to run against him in the Republican primary.

"If he runs, that's fine. I'm way up in the polls," Trump told AP. "He's going to have to do what he wants to do, but he may run. I do think it would be a great act of disloyalty because, you know, I got him in. He had no chance. His political life was over."

Later, while speaking to reporters on board his plane, CNN reports that Trump doubled down on the remarks, saying: "So then when I hear he might run, you know, I consider that very disloyal. But, it's not about loyalty — to me it is, it's always about loyalty. But for a lot of people, it's not about that."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer.

Trump and DeSantis were considered close allies while Trump was in office, though the former president has done little to stifle the reports of a growing rift between the two.

Trump announced his own run for the presidency in November. Calls for DeSantis to run for higher office — particularly as he won reelection as Florida's governor in a landslide amid Republican losses in many other parts of the country — have only grown since then.