Former Republ8can President Donald Trump's campaign is seizing on Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis' varying pronunciation of his last name, escalating the name-calling game as they both vie for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
DeSantis has been known to alternate between "Deh-Santis" and "Dee-Santis" throughout his political career, prompting Trump and his campaign to poke fun at the inconsistency.
When asked by Axios for the official pronunciation, DeSantis's campaign did not provide a clear answer, leaving room for speculation. The DeSantis-aligned super PAC, Never Back Down, also declined to comment on the matter, possibly indicating a lack of certainty since DeSantis himself hasn't made a definitive decision.
Trump soon pounced—and expressed his disapproval of DeSantis changing the pronunciation of his name during an election.
You can hear what he said in the video below.
"You don't change your name in the middle of a election. He changed his name in the middle of the election! You don't do that. You do it before or after or ideally you don't do it at all."
"I liked it better before anyway. I liked it better before."
DeSantis, in response to Trump's jabs, dismissed them as "petty" and "juvenile" during an interview with a New Hampshire reporter. He labeled Trump's behavior as one of the reasons why he believes the former president is no longer in the White House, asserting that it alienated many voters over trivial matters.
"I think it's so petty. I think it's so juvenile. I don't think that's what voters want. And honestly, I think that his conduct, which he's been doing for years now, I think that's one of the reasons he's not in the White House now, because I think he alienated too many voters, for things that really don't matter."
At another point, after declining to speak to audience members, DeSantis lashed out at a reporter who'd asked him to explain why he's flip-flopped on the way his last name should be pronounced.
DeSantis accused the reporter of being "blind" and promptly turned to speak to the audience he'd been ignoring in the first place.
You can see his reaction in the video below.
And when faced with yet more questions about it, DeSantis attempted to deflect with the following response:
"This is ridiculous, these stupid things. Listen, the way to pronounce my last name? Winner."
You can hear what DeSantis said in the video below.
No one seems to know the answer, and as Axios pointed out, DeSantis went with “Dee-Santis” on at least two occasions, including for a radio interview and in his official campaign video in which he announced his presidential bid.
You can see it below.
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DeSantis has been highly criticized as a result.
The issue of DeSantis' changing pronunciations dates back to 2018 when a Tampa Bay Times story suggested that his wife, Casey DeSantis, influenced his shift to saying "Deh-Santis" instead of "Dee-Santis." Casey DeSantis has played a significant role in shaping her husband's image and preparing him for his national prominence.
While DeSantis used "Dee-Santis" in his official campaign announcement video, Axios highlighted that he reverted to using "Deh-Santis" in subsequent interviews on Fox News and elsewhere.
The ongoing back-and-forth regarding DeSantis' name pronunciation adds another layer to the political dynamics between Trump and the Florida governor. As DeSantis positions himself as a potential contender for the presidency, his relationship with Trump will likely continue to be scrutinized and potentially influence his political trajectory.