The back-and-forth came as the Sunshine State battled to recover from last week’s devastating storm, which caused dozens of fatalities, left millions without power and wiped out entire Gulf Coast communities. At least 35 people have been confirmed dead in Lee County, where county seat Fort Myers was virtually obliterated, according the the Lee County Sheriff.
“Do you stand behind Lee County’s decision to not have that mandatory evacuation until the day before the storm?” CNN’s Nadia Romero asked the Republican governor.
DeSantis defended the county’s preparations, noting officials closely monitored the hurricane’s progress while ensuring shelters were ready. The county, he said, had good reason in the days before the storm made landfall to believe it would dodge a direct hit.
“They were following the weather track, and they had to make decisions based on that,” DeSantis said. “But you know, 72 hours, they weren’t even in the cone, 48 hours, they were on the periphery. So you’ve got to make the decisions the best you can. I will say they delivered the message to people, they had shelters open, everybody had adequate opportunity to at least get to a shelter within the county.”
DeSantis said many residents expected the brunt of the storm to hit north, toward Tampa, and that some resisted leaving their homes.
“I think it’s easy to second-guess them, but they were ready for the whole time and made that call when when there was justifiable to do so,” he said.
Romero noted some neighboring counties had evacuation orders in place before Tuesday.
“Well, right,” DeSantis responded as he then proceeded to explain how early forecasts showed the hurricane hitting a different part of the state and it was only hours before the storm hit that officials knew where the storm would make landfall.
The DeSantis re-election campaign Twitter account, DeSantis War Room, posted the clip on Twitter, accusing the reporter of pushing a misleading narrative.
“Today: CNN reporter questions Governor DeSantis, hoping to push a misleading narrative about evacuation in Lee County. He shuts that right down. His answer is professional, direct & empathetic… with ZERO tolerance for gaslighting.”
Today: CNN reporter questions Governor DeSantis, hoping to push a misleading narrative about evacuation in Lee County.
He shuts that right down.
🔥His answer is professional, direct & empathetic… with ZERO tolerance for gaslighting.pic.twitter.com/Z8YVgcMXFl
— DeSantis War Room 🐊 #FloridaStrong (@DeSantisWarRoom) October 3, 2022