INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — Former President Donald Trump ripped Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News here after his National Rifle Association (NRA) speech, saying DeSantis should be in Fort Lauderdale helping oversee the response to the flooding of one of his state’s biggest cities instead of touring the nation “campaigning.”
“He shouldn’t be campaigning right now,” Trump said of DeSantis. “He should be there.”
DeSantis has not formally announced a 2024 presidential campaign, but an outside group with which he is aligned and which he currently controls has begun running attack ads against Trump in the GOP presidential primary. DeSantis is widely expected to formally announce a campaign later this year, but for all intents and purposes given the fact he is hiring staff and running attack ads he is basically running against Trump unless and until he says otherwise.
Fort Lauderdale, one of Florida’s biggest cities, has experienced historic flooding the past several days. The immediate damage has been so bad that the Fort Lauderdale airport was forced to close for at least a day this week, and much of the damage remains severe.
Rather than going there to oversee the response, DeSantis continued with his events in other places across the country this week—while the Fort Lauderdale airport was closed. He appeared in Ohio, in Virginia, and in New Hampshire this week while the ravaged city has raced to respond to the crisis.
Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s eldest son, had already ripped DeSantis publicly for not coming back to Florida to deal with the issues in Fort Lauderdale. But Trump himself doing it is new, and represents a significant escalation in the brewing war between the former president and the governor of Florida.
But it’s not just Trump allies criticizing DeSantis’s lackluster Fort Lauderdale response. The mayor of Fort Lauderdale, a Democrat, also said DeSantis has not called him. And some state legislators from the area are also ripping DeSantis. State Sen. Shevrin Jones, another Democrat, called DeSantis not returning to Florida and calling off the events in other states “disgraceful.”
In response, DeSantis spokesman Bryan Griffin said that DeSantis has been engaged in the response even though he is not physically present in Florida.
“The governor left yesterday, and the unprecedented flooding intensified later in the night. He returns today,” Griffin said, per Politico. “Nonetheless, at the direction of Governor DeSantis, the state emergency response apparatus is in full swing responding to the flooding and the needs of the localities as they are communicated to us. This now includes issuing a state of emergency in Broward County,”
Trump also told Breitbart News during the exclusive interview backstage after his speech at the NRA’s annual meeting that he is considering going down to Fort Lauderdale himself to tour the damage and visit first responders. He noted his home at his luxurious Mar-a-Lago seaside resort in Palm Beach, Florida, is very close to Fort Lauderdale—and that most of southeast Florida also got hit hard by the storms causing the flooding.
“I may, I’m right there,” Trump said when asked if he will tour the damage. “I just left from that area—the Palm Beach area. Fort Lauderdale is very close. Palm Beach has been hit hard too, but not as hard as Fort Lauderdale. They say it’s once in a hundred years what happened there.”
Trump’s broadside comes as the Super PAC formally backing his campaign, MAGA Inc., launched an attack ad against DeSantis called “Pudding Fingers” mocking the governor of Florida for reports he has denied that he once ate pudding with his fingers—and using the imagery of grubby fingers to warn DeSantis off touching people’s Social Security and Medicare.
DeSantis, meanwhile, responded with an attack ad from Never Back Down, his outside group staffed by a number of professional political consultants, attacking Trump on the Second Amendment with a hit while the former president spoke to the NRA.
Much more from Trump’s latest exclusive interview with Breitbart News is forthcoming.
WATCH: Fireman Braves High Water to Save Child from Flooded HouseFort Lauderdale Fire Rescue via Storyful