In a fiery retort to former President Donald Trump’s unexpected claim that Andrew Cuomo handled the COVID-19 crisis better than Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis of the Republican Party seized the opportunity to defend his state’s response. Trump’s proclamation, delivered via a video on his new Truth Social platform, left DeSantis perplexed and labeled it as “truly perplexing” in light of his recent presidential campaign launch.
Notably, Trump had previously labeled DeSantis as “average” compared to other Republican governors before asserting that Cuomo had outperformed him in handling the pandemic. The former president even drew attention to the fact that Florida had the third-highest number of COVID-19 fatalities, while Cuomo’s New York ranked fourth.
Responding during an interview on the “Ben Shapiro Show,” the 44-year-old DeSantis vehemently refuted Trump’s claims and defended Florida’s record. He emphasized that Florida had lower excess mortality rates than both California and New York, attributing this to the avoidable mortality caused by lockdown policies. DeSantis also expressed concern that if Trump believed Cuomo handled the crisis better, it could indicate a potential willingness to repeat similar mistakes in the future.
One of the most controversial actions taken by Cuomo was the executive order issued in March 2020, which mandated nursing homes to accept COVID-19-positive patients, resulting in tragic consequences for the elderly population. A study by the Empire Center for Public Policy revealed that this directive potentially led to “several hundred and possibly more than 1,000” deaths among nursing home residents.
Cuomo’s handling of COVID-19 data further tarnished his reputation. The Cuomo administration was accused of undercounting nursing home deaths by more than 50% in a report released by the New York State Health Department in March 2022. The ex-governor’s spokesperson, while claiming innocence regarding the allegations, argued that nursing home COVID-19 rates reflected the surrounding communities.
DeSantis acknowledged the complexity of the circumstances faced by leaders during the pandemic, emphasizing the lack of consistent guidelines and statistics across states. However, he shifted the blame to Trump’s reliance on Dr. Anthony Fauci, suggesting that the former president should have fired Fauci early on and not entrusted him with shaping COVID-19 mitigation strategies. DeSantis even went so far as to label Fauci’s approach as “Faucism,” which he believed caused significant destruction.
Looking ahead, when asked if Trump would make the same decisions again, DeSantis expressed hope that he wouldn’t. The governor questioned the effectiveness of certain measures, including the CARES Act and the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies, which he believed contributed to the ongoing economic crisis.
In conclusion, DeSantis stood firm in defending Florida’s response to the pandemic and strongly criticized Cuomo’s actions. The unexpected clash between Trump and DeSantis shed light on the complex and contentious nature of evaluating leadership during the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19.