One day after former president Donald Trump was arraigned on charges that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said that the claims Trump and his allies pushed about a stolen election were false.
DeSantis, one of several candidates challenging Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has for months dodged questions about Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. On Friday, however, the Florida governor offered the strongest rejection he has so far of the notion of a stolen election.
“I’ve said many times: The election is what it is,” DeSantis said, according to audio from the Iowa campaign event Friday. “All those theories that were put out did not prove to be true.”
His comments were first reported by the New York Times.
DeSantis did not call out Trump by name and hedged his answer somewhat by saying that the 2020 election was not “conducted the way I think that we want.” He also baselessly accused unnamed election officials of “ballot harvesting” and social media companies of “stifling information” in the 2020 election.
“But that’s different than saying ‘Maduro stole votes’ or something like that,” DeSantis added. “Those theories, you know, proved to be unsubstantiated.”
Asked if he had watched coverage of Trump’s arraignment on Thursday, DeSantis said he only saw a little bit because he had been overseeing an execution in Florida.
Representatives for the DeSantis campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
DeSantis has a long record of dodging questions about Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, as a violent pro-Trump mob sought to halt certification of the vote.
At a town hall in New Hampshire in June, DeSantis ducked a question on whether Trump “violated the peaceful transfer of power,” even as he showed a new willingness to criticize the former president on other fronts.
Many Republican presidential candidates have tiptoed around the Jan. 6 attack. But DeSantis stands out for how carefully he’s avoided placing direct blame on the former president, even as he has gone after him on other matters. He has responded to questions about the Jan. 6 insurrection by calling it everything from “unacceptable” on the day of the attack to, later, “a dead horse” and simply a media obsession.
At a campaign event last month, DeSantis shifted course and knocked Trump for his behavior on Jan. 6 — but he did not endorse a criminal investigation or charges against Trump and reiterated now-common Republican allegations that the Justice Department is politically biased.
In an interview on the “Megyn Kelly Show” last month, DeSantis suggested that, if elected, he would pardon Trump for any federal charges.
“I don’t think it would be good for the country to have an almost 80-year-old former president go to prison,” DeSantis said on the podcast.