TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - In a one-on-one interview with FOX 13’s Jennifer Holton, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis discussed his official bid for reelection, his wife’s battle with breast cancer, the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a potential run for the presidency, and his visions for the future of the Sunshine State.
Mr. Governor, thank you for taking the time today. Millions of Floridians are praying for or thinking about your family right now as the first lady battles cancer. Can you tell us how she is doing?
DeSantis: She’s holding up well. When you get this news, particularly for a mother with three kids under five, it really turns your world upside down, because you’re seeing your life before your eyes. It was very emotional, and we’ve tried to come to terms with that, but then we got this treatment plan, and she’s doing it, and there’s good days and bad days, but by and large, and the one thing I can tell you is people’s prayers have mattered to her. The outpouring has been tremendous.
Anti-vaccine or anti-mandate?
I think many confuse you when it comes to anti-vaccine and anti-mandate. I know you’re against mandates, but where do you fall on the vaccine? What are your thoughts on the vaccine?
DeSantis: We did more in this administration to get this out to people in December, January, February, and March. I would show up at nursing homes, senior communities, so by April, any adult in Florida that wanted it could go to CVS, Publix and get it. I said we’re going to make it available for all, but mandatory for none. So, where I have been very concerned is the use of coercion to force people to do this. The coercion, I don’t think it works, I think it creates distrust. Ultimately, I think it’s a personal decision, did I recommend my parents who are older to take it? Yes, but at the same time, to have some of these other people, someone in their early 20s who’s already recovered from COVID, it’s a much different calculation and I don’t want them to lose their job over that.
What does Florida plan on doing when it comes to these vaccine mandates that the White House is planning?
DeSantis: We have filed suit in the eleventh circuit. The eleventh circuit has already enjoined this nationwide. And so, we’re happy about that. Then we’re also doing under the special session substantive protections for workers so they’re not thrown overboard based on these jabs.
Do you think the vaccine is safe?
DeSantis: So, here’s what I think – I think the side effects have been very rare, but I also think for certain people, COVID is very rare to be something that’s very harmful. For example, young kids, people that have recovered from COVID – the chance of having asymptomatic infection after you’ve already had asymptomatic infection is totally small. I think it’s totally appropriate for someone to weigh their risk. Why would we want to force this down and say one size fits all, no matter if you’re 85, 13, everyone’s got to do the same thing. I don’t think that’s the right thing.
Governorship vs. presidency
You filed to run for reelection in 2022. What are your goals? What do you want to be different about a second term?
DeSantis: Our economy is the envy of the country in many respects. People want to come here; they want to move their businesses here. We’ve boosted teacher pay, etc. I think what people appreciate is you say what you’re going to do, and then you actually do it. I don’t make empty promises.
In regards to a potential promise, I’m sure you saw the news Friday that Roger Stone is threatening to run for governor if you don’t pledge to serve all four years in office if reelected in 2022. What’s your response to stone?
DeSantis: Someone said he was going to run, but isn’t he a convicted felon? I don’t think you can run if you’re a convicted felon. People are free to run, I think that’s totally fine, and I’m certainly not entitled to. I’ve got to go earn it, but you cannot run if you’re a convicted felon.
Well, there was a new clemency rule that allowed ex-felons entitled to have their rights restored if they submit to a formal process. Would you be threatened by the prospect of Stone running?
DeSantis: Well, no. We have 22 million-plus people, a lot of people have different ambitions, some people have different riffs, and that’s fine, but I can tell you this, we’re going to be running and running strong and if you look at the support that we have, people are really excited, and 2022 is going to be a strong year."
And I wanted to ask you about a run for president in 2024, that is the question on everyone’s minds – are you running?
DeSantis: I’m running for governor. I’m not running for president. People have different views about what they want to see, but at the end of the day, I do my job. I think the reason there’s people, and Republicans across the country that look to me, it’s not because I’m out there campaigning or trying to seek other offices. It’s because they see me leading and getting things done here. And they wish more Republicans would do it.
President Trump has said that he’s going to make an eventual decision about whether he’s running in 2024, but he says there are some people, like Nikki Haley for example, who would stand down if he decided to run. Are you one of those potential people?
DeSantis: If he runs for president again? Well, he’s a friend of mine, we’ve known each other for a long time, and we work well together, and I’ll just leave it at that. We’re friends, and I’d wish him well in whatever he did.