Matt Gaetz, Byron Donalds Rush To Defend DeSantis After 2018 Debate Prep Leaked: ‘DeSantis Was Right’
Representative Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, US, on Friday, March 3, 2023. The Conservative Political Action Conference launched in 1974 brings together conservative organizations, elected leaders, and activists.
Getty Images: SUZANNE CORDEIRO | Al Drago

Florida Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz and Byron Donalds, who both endorsed former President Donald Trump’s 2024 bid for the White House, rushed to defend Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Sunday after someone leaked videos from DeSantis’ debate prep in 2018.

“I ran the Desantis Debate Prep in 2018. Though I prefer Trump for President (bigly), the release of these videos by the person operating the camera is disloyal hackery that I do not abide,” Gaetz wrote on Twitter. “Staffers who leak on the candidates they’ve done work for deserve the reputations they get.”

“He didn’t say anything wrong,” Gaetz continued. “Still doesn’t make this leak honorable.”

Donalds also acknowledged that he was on DeSantis’ debate prep, adding: “These tapes should not have been leaked. It’s low class.”

Many online argued that the video clips, which were leaked in an apparent attempt to damage DeSantis, actually made DeSantis look good as he spoke about wanting to be careful about what he said because he did not want to alienate Trump supporters.

DeSantis made the remarks in response to a potential debate question he was asked: “Is there any issue upon which you disagree with President Trump?”

“I have to figure out how to do this,” DeSantis responded. “Obviously there is because, I mean, I voted contrary to him in the Congress. I have to frame it in a way that’s not going to piss off all his voters.”

DeSantis said in the clip that his response would be that he did “what I think is right” and that he “supports [Trump’s] agenda in terms of what he’s been able to do.”

“If I have a disagreement, I talk to him in private,” DeSantis added.

DeSantis said in the clip that he wanted to stay away from taking nasty “digs” at people because he did not think that they worked and he thought that made him look like an “a**h***.”

In another clip, DeSantis said that he wished he had pushed back harder against the media’s false claim that DeSantis made a racist remark to his then Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum — who would later face a federal criminal investigation and be found in a hotel with a gay male escort who overdosed on meth.

“We did such a horrible job of pushing back on all these stupid stories from the beginning,” DeSantis said, adding that his response to the accusation needed to be aggressive.

Gaetz said in the video that he thought that DeSantis was coming in “too hot” on the issue.

“It deserves to be hot!” DeSantis exclaimed.

Gaetz responded to the leak of the video on Twitter, writing: “DeSantis was right in his reaction to my advise on this. Idk why the leaker here thought they were hurting him.”

The accusation that DeSantis said something racist came after he made the following remarks during a Fox News interview:

Florida elections are always competitive, and this is a guy who, although he’s much too liberal for Florida, I think he’s got huge problems with how he’s governed Tallahassee, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views, and he’s a charismatic candidate. I watched those Democrat debates, and none of that is my cup of tea, but he performed better than those other people there. So we’ve got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction, let’s build off the success we’ve had on Governor Scott, the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That’s not going to work.

Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro mocked the idea that DeSantis’ remarks had anything to do with race, noting that DeSantis had actually said nice things about Gillum as a person and had only attacked his policies.

“Gillum, of course, is black. The phrase ‘monkey this up’ immediately generated accusations of ‘dog whistling’ from DeSantis — the implication that DeSantis was engaging in a subtle form of racism, telling Floridians not to vote for the black candidate,” Shapiro wrote. “Yes, in the midst of praising Gillum as a highly competent and articulate candidate, DeSantis supposedly just decided to remind closet racists that Gillum is black by using a phrase everyone understands to mean ‘mess things up.'”

“No, DeSantis didn’t say that Floridians shouldn’t “‘monkey this up’ by voting for black candidate,” Shapiro continued. “He said Floridians shouldn’t ‘monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases.'”

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