Following Donald Trump‘s rally in Waco, Texas at the weekend, the former president sat down for a long and wide-ranging interview with Fox News‘ Sean Hannity.
The two spoke on several topics, including the rally, as well as his social media comments warning of “potential death & destruction” if he were to be arrested as part of an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into allegations of hush money, which he denies.
But a segment of the interview was devoted to Trump’s thoughts on Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, who is widely seen as a potential rival for the GOP nomination in the 2024 presidential election, despite having yet to declare his candidacy.
The two have been trading places at the front of the field in polling, and Trump stressed that he was far ahead of other Republican candidates. He also claimed that he was responsible for DeSantis’ successful gubernatorial bid in 2018.
According to a survey released on Sunday by Public Opinion Strategies for Axios, DeSantis leads Trump by 8 points among Republican voters in Iowa, and the two were tied on 39 percent in New Hampshire. But a March 15 national poll by Quinnipiac University put Trump on 46 percent among GOP voters, with 32 percent supporting DeSantis.
“Lmao [laughing my a** off] they cut Trump off as he started hammering DeSantis,” Andrew Lawrence, a senior researcher at Media Matters, a non-profit watchdog, wrote on Tuesday morning, in a tweet that has been viewed 56,700 times and received 148 retweets as of 6 a.m. ET.
It included a clip of the interview, in which Trump says of DeSantis: “He’s getting crushed now in the polls, because he did little things like voting against social security, voting against Medicare, his numbers aren’t very good on Covid…”
Trump’s intonation suggests that he was likely to continue the sentence, but is cut off by an on-screen graphic before Hannity tees up the next section of the interview after a commercial break. During the program, when they return, Hannity asks Trump about the economy.
Prior to his comments about DeSantis’ polling, Trump had been asked about his relationship with the Florida governor—who he has pejoratively referred to as “Ron DeSanctimonious” in social media posts—which has appeared to sour since Trump endorsed him while U.S. president.
Trump then spoke for six minutes and 10 seconds before he was cut off, in which he made reference to the song he recently contributed to in support of those incarcerated for their involvement in the January 6 uprising, but spoke mostly about DeSantis.
When DeSantis was campaigning to become governor in 2018, Trump said he “didn’t know him very well, but I knew him a little bit. I knew him as someone who defended me.”
Trump claimed DeSantis asked for a meeting while “he was getting killed, he was being crushed” in the Republican primary, and with “tears in his eyes” asked for the then-president to endorse him.
“He was desperate,” Trump commented. “I gave him a nice endorsement. I said, ‘you write out what you’d like and let me see it.’ He wrote it out; I thought it was terrible. I changed it and made it great.”
Trump went on to claim that DeSantis “could never have gotten the nomination” without his support, and that “he would be working in either a pizza parlor place or law office right now, and he wouldn’t be very happy.”
The former president—who is the only big name so far to declare his candidacy in the Republican field—said he took DeSantis’ decision not to rule himself out of the race as an announcement that “essentially, he’s going to run against you.”
Newsweek reached out to a Fox News spokesperson and DeSantis’ office for comment via email on Tuesday.
While Trump’s attack on DeSantis appears to have been cut off for a break in the program, Hannity had allowed him to speak on the topic of his relationship with DeSantis for several minutes beforehand.
As the interview was cut into segments, it is likely the section was ended for scheduling reasons. The interview with Trump lasted around 40 minutes in total.
FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK
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