Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday slammed former President Donald Trump for comments about Iowa’s popular Republican governor and a leading evangelical Christian leader in the state.
The Republican governor told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that Trump made a “scurrilous” charge by claiming that his campaign paid influential Christian Bob Vander Plaats for his endorsement of the current runner-up in the GOP primary.
Vander Plaats is president and CEO of The Family Leader, a socially conservative organization associated with the national Focus on the Family group.
As the Tampa Free Press reported last week, DeSantis’ campaign trumpeted his support because Vander Plaats backed the winners of the GOP caucuses in Iowa in 2008, 2012, and 2016, all of whom were trailing significantly in those races.
On Monday, DeSantis was reacting to Trump and other critics who claim Vander Plaats backed DeSantis after a political action committee connected to the governor paid his group $95,000.
Reuters, reiterating a report it initially floated in August, noted, “For the $95,000 paid to Vander Plaats’ organization, DeSantis and supporting groups got three pages of advertisements in a booklet distributed at a July forum attended by 2,000 Christian conservatives, and tickets to the summit, lunch, and an after-dinner event.”
After losing Vander Plaats’ endorsement, Trump asserted it was a pay-for-play scheme.
“Bob Vander Plaats, the former High School Accountant from Iowa, will do anything to win, something which he hasn’t done in many years,” Trump posted Saturday on his social media platform Truth Social. “He’s more known for scamming Candidates than he is for Victory, but now he’s going around using Disinformation from the Champions of that Art, the Democrats.”
“I don’t believe anything Bob Vander Plaats says,” Trump added. “Anyone who would take $95,000, and then endorse a Candidate who is going nowhere, is not what Elections are all about!”
On Monday, DeSantis confirmed Vander Plaats’ point, maintaining the funding went for advertising to promote his campaign to a big swath of voters. “That frequently happens,” he told Ingraham.
“Bob Vander Plaats’ endorsement is not for sale,” said DeSantis, who referred to him as a friend.
“He’s got a great reputation. … He’s very influential in Iowa. So, it’s a scurrilous charge. It’s without merit,” DeSantis continued.
“If somebody endorses somebody other than you, you don’t always have to lash out and attack the person who made the endorsement,” he added in a thinly veiled reference to Trump. “It’s a primary. People can have different choices. And there’s not always an ulterior motive.”
“I think the attacks against Bob Vander Plaats have been out of bounds, just as I think the attacks against Gov. Kim Reynolds have been out of bounds,” DeSantis said.
After Reynolds also endorsed DeSantis, Trump complained on Truth Social that Reynolds had said she would remain neutral and campaign with all candidates.
“I told her that I should have ‘remained neutral’ when she asked me to help her get elected, and that I didn’t want or need her to campaign with me,” Trump said.
“It will be the end of her political career in that MAGA would never support her again, just as MAGA will never support DeSanctimonious again. Two extremely disloyal people getting together is, however, a very beautiful thing to watch. They can now remain loyal to each other because nobody else wants them!!!”
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