TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to make one thing clear: He was never going to “nerd prom.”
The Florida Republican, who criticizes all things perceived to be part of the political establishment, predictably said Monday that his office “rejected” an invite to Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner. He said it was a “lie” for event organizers to in any way associate his name with the event.
“I would never attend that. Have no interest in that. Did not watch it. I don’t care what they do,” DeSantis said when asked about the event at a Jacksonville press conference on Monday. “For them to advertise me when that invitation was rejected by my office, that is a lie. Here they are saying how important they are that they are somehow these paragons of truth, yet they are lying about something that is readily verifiable.”
DeSantis’ name was included in the event’s program even though he was not in attendance, and The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, who performed at the dinner, made it seem as though DeSantis was in the audience before a string of jokes focused on the governor’s rivalry with former President Donald Trump.
DeSantis, who on Monday didn’t directly respond to Noah, and Trump have downplayed tensions, which at times have been public. Both are jockeying for position ahead of a 2024 presidential election cycle where many expect Trump to again run. DeSantis is seen as the only viable primary challenger or the front-runner if Trump does not run.
“One of my favorites, Ron DeSantis is here,” Noah told Saturday night’s attendees, pointing to the audience. “Oh man, I’m actually surprised that he found the time. You know he has been so busy trying to outmaneuver [former President Donald] Trump for 2024. I see you, Ron. I see you, player.”
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The roughly two minutes of DeSantis-focused ribbing played on the perceived tension between the two, including the fact that Trump was trying to encourage people to get the Covid-19 vaccine in January, and calling politicians who would not say if they got the booster shot “gutless.” DeSantis has publicly sidestepped questions about his booster status.
“Yeah, I’ve seen what you’ve been doing, blaming Trump for the lockdowns, distancing yourself from the vaccines that Trump created with his own two hands,” Noah said.
DeSantis has mostly downplayed potential presidential aspirations, even as he has consistently trained his political and policy focus on national issues that stir the conservative base. He has developed near-rockstar status among Republicans across the country over the past year, a time that has seen him win several 2024 straw polls that do not include Trump.
DeSantis most recently addressed the issue this weekend on The Truth with Lisa Boothe, a Florida-based conservative media personality.
“The interesting thing is, you know, people will have paraphernalia about me in the future, people always bring it up to me and stuff, but you know, I have never done anything along those lines, I’ve basically just done my job,” DeSantis said.
“And so I think what it shows is, is that people just wanna see people that are willing to lead and willing to fight for the people, knowing you’re gonna face arrows, knowing you’re gonna be able to have to be in the kitchen when it gets hot, but who’s gonna stand there and lead us out of this morass?” DeSantis added. “And so we just do what we can do to help Florida, but it really has had implications beyond the country, and really I get people that write in to Florida from other countries saying, we look to Florida as kind of the beacon.”