Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fired back at former President Donald Trump Friday after he argued that disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo handled the COVID-19 pandemic better than the Sunshine State did.
DeSantis, who launched his 2024 presidential campaign earlier this week, called the 76-year-old Trump’s claim in a video posted to Truth Social – “very bizarre.”
Trump had accused DeSantis of being “average” compared to other GOP governors before suggesting Cuomo did a better job than DeSantis on COVID-19 policy.
“How about the fact that he had the third most deaths of any state having to do with the China virus or COVID? Even Cuomo did better, he was number four,” Trump claimed.
DeSantis rebuked his rival’s comments during an appearance on the “Ben Shapiro Show.”
“First of all, Florida had less excess mortality than California or New York,” said DeSantis, 44. “Part of that is because states like California had excess mortality derived from the lockdown policy, which is really, really avoidable mortality.”
“But if he thinks Cuomo handled it better, that’s an indication if something like this were to happen again, he would double down and do what he did in March of 2020,” the Florida governor went on.
In March 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic, Cuomo issued an infamous executive order that required nursing homes to take COVID-19-positive patients in order to free hospital space.
The policy remained in effect until May 10, when it was quietly revoked.
A study by the nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy attributed “several hundred and possibly more than 1,000” deaths to the executive order, which allowed COVID-19 to spread among vulnerable seniors.
The Cuomo administration initially downplayed the total number of COVID fatalities tied to nursing homes by excluding deaths of patients that occurred at other facilities, such as hospitals, in a July 2020 report.
Cuomo resigned in August 2021 following allegations of sexual harassment by several women during his time in office. He has denied all accusations.
A March 2022 report from the New York State Health Department found Cuomo had “misled the public” and undercounted deaths by more than 50% to try to save his image. A spokesman for the former governor told The Post last week that “nursing home COVID rates mirrored the communities around them, pointing to asymptomatic spread among the staff as the likely cause.”
“There were no federal guidelines, no state counted statistics the same way and at no time was the total number of people who died from COVID obscured,” the spokesman insisted. “Data subsets were released when they were verified.”
“That was a difficult situation. We didn’t have all the facts, and people can kind of understand if you did things that may not have worked out,” DeSantis said Friday, before arguing that Trump should regret having allowed Dr. Anthony Fauci to dictate COVID-19 mitigation policies in the early months of the pandemic.
The governor told Shapiro that Fauci “should’ve been fired” by Trump, and he accused the former president of “turning the reins over” to Fauci and “elevating” the long-time government official.
“We all have to sit here today in 2023, look back on March of 2020 and say, ‘Faucism was wrong. Faucism was destructive. Faucism has set us on this path with the CARES Act and the Fed printing money, creating inflation, and creating some of the economic problems that we have today,’” DeSantis argued.
“So, if you could do it again, would he do the same thing?” DeSantis said of Trump. “I sure hope not.”