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DeSantis won’t say if he’s boosted against COVID-19, says status could be used as ‘weapon’

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 1/21/2022 Steven Lemongello, Orlando Sentinel
Ron DeSantis speaks while meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on April 28, 2020, in Washington, DC. © Doug Mills/The New York Times/Pool/Getty Images North America/TNS Ron DeSantis speaks while meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on April 28, 2020, in Washington, DC.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to answer a question on whether he’s received a COVID-19 booster shot, calling it a “private matter.”

“So that’s something that, you know, I think people should just make their own decisions on,” DeSantis said when asked directly about his booster status at a news conference on Friday in Sarasota. “I’m not going to let that be a weapon for people to be able to use.”

The comment could be taken as an acknowledgment that admitting his booster status could be a political problem for DeSantis, said Mac Stipanovich, a Tallahassee consultant and anti-Trump former Republican turned independent.

“I don’t understand what he means by [saying] whether you’ve been boosted or not being used as a ‘weapon’ against you,” Stipanovich said. “I mean, either you’ve been boosted or you’re not. ... It’s him saying that his being boosted would be unpopular with the MAGA base, the anti-vax community. And so he’s going to try to hug that group of wackos as close as he can for as long as he can.”

DeSantis’ comments could also be seen as a direct response to former President Donald Trump, who said earlier this month that politicians who don’t reveal their booster status are “gutless.”

“They don’t want to say it. Because they’re gutless,” Trump had said in an interview with the conservative One America Network. “You got to say it. Whether you had it or not. Say it.”

The governor’s latest comment Friday comes amid reports of a growing rift between DeSantis and Trump over their shared 2024 presidential ambitions, with COVID vaccines and differences over the initial March 2020 response to the pandemic among the biggest issues.

The back-and-forth over boosters began when after DeSantis had seemed taken aback by a question from Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo earlier this month on whether he had been boosted, saying, he had “done whatever I did, the normal shot.” DeSantis had said last year he received the one-dose initial Johnson & Johnson shot.

Trump appeared to be alluding to that interview in his comments to OAN.

“I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ Because they got the vaccine,” Trump had said.

“And they’re: ‘Oh. oh,’” he said with a dismissive smirk. “The answer is: yes.”

Trump has repeatedly praised the vaccines recently while DeSantis has increasingly surrounded himself with vaccine skeptics, such as Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. DeSantis has also repeatedly downplayed the vaccines when talking about the highly contagious omicron variant.

“You see an unprecedented amount of people getting this omicron,” he said earlier this month. “And of course, most of them, you know, have been vaccinated. So it’s not stopping the spread like they claimed.”

Data have shown, however, that despite the variant’s extreme infectiousness, vaccinations and booster shots severely reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from the disease.

DeSantis also said on a conservative podcast last week that one of his biggest regrets was not opposing Trump’s calls for lockdowns in 2020.

Trump, meanwhile, tried to damp down the conflict this week, telling reporters, “I have a very good relationship with Gov. DeSantis,” according to the New York Post, while again taking credit for the governor’s rise.

“When he wanted to run, he asked for my support and I supported him and he went, you know, up immediately very, very high,” Trump told the Post. “ ... I have a very good relationship with him, and we’ve had that for a long time. I was very supportive of him and I continue to be — no, I think he’s good, I think he’s very good.”


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