Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis met with President Joe Biden last year during the president’s attempt to survey the damage from Hurricane Ian.
Now, DeSantis is running for president and trying to manage the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia. This time, DeSantis declined to meet with Biden, one of his opponents… and one fringe Republican candidate had something to say about it.
Idalia made landfall last week along Florida’s Big Bend region as a Category 3 storm, causing widespread flooding and damage before moving north to drench Georgia and the Carolinas.
On Friday, the governor’s office announced “no plans” to meet with Biden. A spokesperson cited the costly, time-consuming preparations for security.
“We don’t have any plans for the Governor to meet with the President tomorrow,” DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern told CNN on Friday. “In these rural communities, and so soon after impact, the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts.”
The same day, Biden told CNN that “yes,” he was planning on meeting with DeSantis. The media remarked on the public discrepancy between Biden and DeSantis.
The president eventually toured Florida on Saturday without seeing the governor… and not every presidential candidate is buying the governor’s excuse.
Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie says Ron DeSantis had put “politics ahead of his job” by declining to meet with Biden during the Democrat’s weekend visit to survey Hurricane Idalia’s damage in DeSantis’ state.
“Your job as governor is to be the tour guide for the president, is to make sure the president sees your people, sees the damage, sees the suffering, what’s going on and what needs to be done to rebuild it,” Christie said about his rival for the 2024 nomination in an interview Tuesday on Fox News Radio’s “The Brian Kilmeade Show.”
“You’re doing your job. And unfortunately, he put politics ahead of his job,” Christie said. “That was his choice.”
Christie was serving as New Jersey governor in 2012 during Superstorm Sandy. In one viral photo, he allowed then-President Barack Obama to put a hand on his shoulder.
Some Republicans labeled the gesture a “hug” and suggested it contributed to GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s loss to Obama that year. Christie said he was simply doing his job by meeting with the president.
The “hug” moment has trailed Christie ever since. It emerged last month during Republicans’ first 2024 debate, when Vivek Ramaswamy responded to a barb from Christie — who said the biotech entrepreneur’s opening line about being a skinny kid with a hard-to-pronounce name reminded him of Obama — by asking if the former governor wanted a “hug,” a reference to Obama’s post-Sandy visit.
Christie has defended his own response to the presidential visit during Sandy, saying that although he and Obama had fundamentally different views on governing, the two men did what needed to be done for a devastated region.
Take a look —
Chris Christie on DeSantis not meeting with Biden: "Ron DeSantis played politics because he didn't want a picture like that with Joe Biden. Well let me tell you something. I wouldn't be afraid of that. I'd love to have my picture taken with Joe Biden." pic.twitter.com/KqkD1phXai— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 6, 2023
DeSantis’ campaign has not publicly commented on Christie’s critique. The governor met Biden not only after Hurricane Ian, but also after the Surfside condominium collapse in 2021.
On Friday, DeSantis told reporters that he’d spoken with Biden on the phone.
Biden’s team slammed DeSantis for failing to voice his concerns about the security preparations. “The president informed the governor yesterday before his visit to FEMA. The governor did not express concerns at that time,” a White House official told CBS News on Friday.