DeSantis responds to Trump's latest attack: 'Don't spend my time trying to smear other Republicans'

James A. Jones Jr./The Bradenton Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

(OCALA, Fla.) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday responded to former President Donald Trump’s latest insult after Trump reshared a social media post insinuating that DeSantis behaved inappropriately around students when he worked as a private school teacher.

The post includes a photo taken from a story reported in 2021 by Hill Reporter, a blog run by a Democratic super PAC. The blog claimed the image shows DeSantis at a party with a group of teenagers in 2002.

The New York Times reported in November that DeSantis sometimes “hung out at parties with seniors” while he was a 23-year-old teaching in Georgia.

On Truth Social on Tuesday the original poster called the image “pretty gross.” Trump shared the original photo and comment and added, “No way?”

At a press conference in Ocala, Florida, on Wednesday, DeSantis dismissed the attack when asked about it.

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“I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden; that’s how I spend my time,” DeSantis said. “I don’t spend my time trying to smear other Republicans.”

Trump’s jab at DeSantis occurred on the same day the governor hosted a panel on defamation, where he indicated that the Florida legislature should make it easier to sue media outlets for defamation.

When asked during his press conference how the proposed legislation might address Trump’s attack, DeSantis responded by saying he’s in a different situation as governor.

“It’s different for me because I can fight back and people just know I face defamatory stuff every single day I’ve been governor, that’s just the nature of it,” he said. “But I have a platform to fight back, and a lot of these other people that are [smaller], they don’t necessarily have a platform to fight back.”

Trump, who is running for the White House for a third time, has become increasingly critical of DeSantis, who is seen as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate as well — with polling regularly asking who would win in a hypothetical primary matchup.

In November, shortly after DeSantis won reelection by nearly 20 points, Trump said in a statement that he was an “average” governor who benefited from “great Public Relations.”

DeSantis had been ignoring such comments, including the November criticism, though he has also become more vocal in responding.

Last month, DeSantis seemingly swiped at Trump for criticizing his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking how, unlike the former president, he won a second term.

“You take a crisis situation like COVID — you know, the good thing about it is when you’re an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions, you got to steer that ship,” DeSantis said during a press conference on education after being asked about Trump’s comments. “And the good thing is is that the people are able to render a judgment on that, whether they reelect you or not.”

“I’m happy to say, you know, in my case, not only did we win reelection, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida,” he said.

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