Exclusive: DeSantis Responds To Trump’s Latest Attack

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GUY BENSON, FOX RADIO HOST: Joining me now is the governor of the free state of Florida, Ron DeSantis. Governor, great to have you back on the show.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Hey, how are you?

BENSON: I’m doing well. You have been an extremely busy man recently because your state legislature with your leadership has passed just a flurry of laws across multiple issue sets. And you’ve been signing them all over the place, really a revolution in your state. One of the big areas of interest and sort of a point of emphasis for you has been higher education and schools. My understanding is there are three brand new bills that you have signed into law on that front. What do those bills do, Governor?

DESANTIS: Well, the first bill makes Florida the first state in the country to eliminate these DEI programs from our university system. It’s called Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. But I think you and your listeners understand that’s been used to impose ideology on the universities through the administrative apparatus and really try to enact a conformist agenda. So, we say that DEI, as it’s practiced, is really discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination, and we think it has no place in our public institutions. And so we will be — have a university system that is colorblind, that treats people as individuals and is not trying to impose this ideological agenda. Kind of related to that is another bill that prohibits these political loyalty oaths. They’re called diversity statements. But basically they require you, as a condition of employment, to subscribe to all the DEI and Critical Race Theory-type assumptions about — about society. And that’s problematic, because you shouldn’t force somebody to conform to an orthodoxy, period. But it also leads to professor candidates who say that people should be treated equally regardless of race, they get marked down and potentially can’t even get a job just on saying we should have a colorblind society, which is, of course, I think the ideal that we all should want to work towards. And then, finally, there’s a bill to further expand workforce education. We believe that four-year brick-and-ivy university is one way to achieve success, but it’s not the only way. And we want students to have other pathways. So we have worked really hard over my administration to expand opportunities for both workforce education beyond high school, but also technical education in middle and high schools. And so that’s what this bill does. It really increases the opportunities in our middle and high schools. If you do an apprenticeship your senior year of high school in some of these key areas, you show up on time, have a good attitude, you learn something, chances are, they’re going to offer you a job, you will have no debt, and you will probably be making more money than most of the kids going to college getting degrees in some of these things like zombie studies. And so it’s a really significant package that I think is going to continue to show Florida setting the standard when it comes to education. And, oh, by the way, we were ranked just last week, it came out, number one in the country in education by “U.S. News & World Report.” I guarantee you they did not want to put us number one, but the metrics are what they are.

BENSON: Yes, they gritted their teeth and put you number one. By the way, I’m absolutely going to steal that. Discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination is DEI, repurposing the acronym, much more apt, in my mind. You mentioned middle schools and high schools as well, Governor. You have also given, in the state of Florida, teachers a very significant pay raise. And yet the teachers unions and their bosses in particular in those unions seem very displeased about it, which might be a bit counterintuitive. Why would they be angry about pay increases for teachers? They’re angry about another element of your agenda here, which benefits rank-and-file teachers, but not the unions, right?

DESANTIS: That’s right. Well, look, the teachers unions across this country are partisan left organizations. That’s just the reality. We have increased teacher pay every year since I have been governor. My first year, we did a bunch of bonuses. My second year, we did a big increase in salary, third year, increase in salary and $1,000 bonuses for all principals and teachers. Last year, we did an $800 million categorical increase, and then, this year, a billion dollars for teacher salary increases. They have not really supported any of those, because — part of it is two reasons. One, the school unions, they have other members other than teachers. And so what they have actually done is, they have held up teacher pay raises when there was money available to school districts to try to get other concessions. So we had some teachers, even by the end of 2022, that had still not gotten their pay raise that we enacted the previous legislative session, and the funds were available July 1. So that’s just kind of the games they play. But what they specifically don’t like about this year’s pay package is, we have done what’s called paycheck protection. And that means that they are not allowed to do automatic deduction for school union dues. What they do is, although, technically, teachers are not required to do it — and there are many that don’t in Florida, but what they do is, the union provides these authorization forms for automatic deduction. They don’t necessarily even tell them how much they’re going to deduct. They just say, you need to sign this, and so — so you can be part of this. So, some of them feel pressured to do it, and then they get a bunch of different deductions from their paychecks, as we all do. This will mean that, if you want to join the teacher union, you have the right to do it, but you write out the check for the amount of the dues, and you hand it to them. They’re not allowed to end-run that process by doing the automatic deductions. And so we believe that empowers teachers to make a more informed decision. It’s going to lead to a lot of them having more take-home pay in their paycheck. If they want to take some of that increased take-home pay and stroke a check to the school union, they’re free to do it. But I think what we have shown in Florida is, we have stood up for public schoolteachers, even though we do more school choice than anyone, and we’re proud of that. I’m a product of public schools in Florida. We’re proud of our school districts offering good, and we want to recruit and retain really, really good teachers. Another thing that we did, in addition to that, which I think is important, we did a teacher bill of rights, which, among other things, gives teachers the right to have order in their classroom, because I think what happens is, you will have one or two disruptive students that will ruin the education experience for other kids and makes it difficult on the teacher to even teach. But if the teacher puts the foot down, then the teacher becomes the villain sometimes, and they don’t get support, because it’s politically incorrect to kind of have discipline. We believe discipline is important, and we believe, if someone’s disruptive, the teacher not only has a responsibility, but they should be protected in ensuring that their classroom is orderly. And in spite of all the things that get talked about kind of in the popular press about education, one of the most significant things that are causing teachers to leave the classroom is a lack of discipline. So, we’re trying to counteract that.

BENSON: Governor, I have seen some people out there, critics of yours, for various reasons — and I think it’s kind of obvious what’s going on — trying to diminish the significance of some of these achievements, but you hear some folks saying, well, that’s easy, because they have got supermajorities, Republicans do in your state, so, of course they’re going to get all of this stuff done. Well, first off, those didn’t just pop up out of nowhere, those were earned supermajorities. The other thing is, you look around the country, there are other states with supermajority trifecta Republican legislatures, governors, who haven’t come close to this sort of record even over the course of years. So, I wonder what you make of that point from some of the detractors.

DESANTIS: So, one, as you pointed out, we have supermajorities because we earned the supermajorities with a landslide, historic victory in 2022. And that was a victory that I got a lot of attention for. And we worked hard for it, but we worked really hard up and down the ballot, from school board on up, to help our candidates be in a position to do well. Politics is a team sport. It’s a team effort. And you can’t be successful by yourself. As an executive, you’re just head of one branch of government. If all I did was issue executive orders and didn’t actually get this stuff into law, the next fellow that comes in here could reverse all of that on the first day. And so we recognize the importance of doing that. We did not have supermajorities when I became governor. We do now, but that’s a function of the success that we have had. And then you’re right. There are a lot of states that are much redder than Florida historically who haven’t done a fraction of any of this. I mean, a lot of times, I will have people say to me, hey, why aren’t other states doing this, other Republicans? And there are actually some, I mean, Kim Reynolds in Iowa. You have seen a lot of good stuff out of Governor Kemp in Georgia, for sure, but there are definitely some historical red states that haven’t wanted to be this aggressive. And part of it is just, my nature is, OK, you have put me in here — I remember looking around the office that I’m sitting in right now on my first day in the state capitol four, four-and-a-half years ago, looking around, saying, I don’t know who’s going to succeed me, but they’re not going to have very much to do, because I’m getting all the meat off the bone. Low-hanging fruit, tough issues, we’re going to lean in on it. Not everyone’s wired that way. I mean, I think you know every decision you make, there’s going to be people that love it and there’s going to be people that don’t. And so, if you’re kind of just sitting back and not really diving into issues, and only dealing with issues when they finally reach your desk, in some respects, you may — you may alienate fewer people, because you’re not making a lot of decisions, but you’re not going to achieve very much. And I think what we have shown in Florida is, we’re always out there. We want to get things done. If we see things that need addressing, we don’t just sit around and worry about kind of which way the wind’s blowing. We dive in. And we’re confident that, if we show leadership and deliver the appropriate results, that people will back us. And that’s what’s happened, really, since my first day as governor.

BENSON: More with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on “The Guy Benson Show” next.


BENSON: Back on “The Guy Benson Show” with us is the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. Let’s talk about Disney. I know this has been a battle you have been engaged in here for a while. Some of the critiques from the left are predictable, but you’re also seeing critiques from the right. So, one that I’m sympathetic towards is that there’s this precedent of using levers of government to retaliate against a private company over a political stance. Could that be dangerous in the future? More specifically, you’re seeing some folks on the right, conservatives, Republicans running for president, Vivek Ramaswamy, saying, well, Governor DeSantis is a hypocrite on this, because he’s been part of these carve-outs for Disney in the past, Nikki Haley saying she would love those Disney jobs to come to South Carolina. Your response, Governor?

DESANTIS: Well, I was never part of Reedy Creek. That happened before I was born. And so that’s just ridiculous to try to say that. It’s also ridiculous when some of these people say that, because Disney had donated to PACs that are supporting me, that I’m somehow hypocritical for opposing them on some of this stuff. No, that’s what a leader should do. You run campaigns. People can give or not. But they’re giving for me to be a leader and make my best judgment. I shouldn’t be indebted to somebody because they did that and not do what I think is right. And so those contributions don’t influence me. I think that’s what we should expect from our leaders, not the opposite. But here’s the thing. Disney had an arrangement that no other citizen or business in the state of Florida has ever enjoyed. They basically had control of their own government, 44 square miles in Central Florida, no accountability, no transparency, exempt from laws that their competitors had to do, tax breaks, all these other things. And it was an unjustifiable arrangement that lived on through the decades because of their really potent political power in this state. Now, what happened was, it wasn’t just the parents’ rights. Yes, they opposed us on it. I stood up to them. We signed the bill. Yes, they pledged that they were going to use their corporate resources and effectively the subsidies that the state of Florida had been providing them to try to get the law overturned and all this other stuff. And that’s not good, but it is what it is. But then we started to see their executives come out and talk about how they really wanted to start gearing their programming towards sexualization of the younger kids. And so we just had to make a decision. OK, this is not justifiable. The state of Florida has basically joined itself at the hip with this one company. And the question is, is that appropriate? And it really isn’t appropriate. And just, as a father, I didn’t want to see that continue. And so what we’re doing is, Disney is no longer going to have its own government. They’re going to live under the same laws as everybody else. They are going to pay their fair share of taxes and pay back the municipal debt, but they’re going to be treated like SeaWorld is and like Universal is. And so I think it was 100 percent appropriate, and we would do the same thing again. And a lot of the stuff, the litigation, they should just recognize what they’re doing is really not in the best interest of their shareholders. The state board that’s in charge of Disney now, they have a right to govern it. Disney tried to contract out of it in the middle of the night, and that’s — that’s not going to fly in Florida. So we will end up winning all that eventually. I think it’s kind of a waste, but we’re forced to be able to engage in it, so we will. But don’t tell me that it’s free market principles to have a — one company run its own government and live under different rules than everybody else. They had an arrangement that no other business has ever had. It’s outlived its usefulness. And there’s a new sheriff in town.

BENSON: Governor, you were just in Iowa over the weekend, and people paying close attention to that. I think we know why. If you want to make some news there here, you’re more than welcome to do that. You did say — and this is a sound bite getting quite a lot of attention — that it’s time for the Republican Party to reject the culture of losing. The time for excuses is over. Donald Trump, the former president, has responded to this already. I guess he viewed those comments as a barb at him. He said, among other things: “I’m not caught up in the past. I did very well in the midterms.” Quote: “Ron’s not a winner,” talking about you, “because Ron, without me, wouldn’t have won.” Were you talking about him with those comments? And what’s your reaction to that response that I just summarized for you?

DESANTIS: Well, we have had three election cycles in a row where we have had poor results. I mean, that’s just the fact, 2018, lose the House, 2020, presidency and the Senate. And then, 2022, the circumstances were probably never better for our party in the last 10, 15 years, to have a floundering president in Joe Biden, approval rating at 40 percent. And what did we do? Not only did we not gain Senate seats. We lost a Senate seat, yes, picked up the House, but on the skin of our teeth, and really just because of Florida and New York. And so it was a historic underperformance across the board. So I’m not sure what he’s saying that his candidates did well in the midterms. If that were the case, we would have 54 Senate seats. We would have swept all the governorships. All that stuff was in play for us as a party, and we weren’t able to get it done. Here in Florida, we did have a red wave. In fact, we had a red tsunami. And I think it’s because we have governed in a way that not only has produced tangible results for people, but has been willing to add to our coalition. Like, yes, I want all the Republicans, but you know that’s not enough to win nationwide. So we won independents by 18 percent. We won over 60 percent of Latinos. We won women voters by 9 percent. We won, of course, in rural areas, and I set a record for a Republican. I used to think, like, Philadelphia, you would see, like, 90 percent go Democrat in some area. I was like, that’s got to be fraud, right? Well, no, I was winning 90 percent in some of these rural areas, 92, 90 percent, 88 percent. We swept the suburbs, and we won urban areas like Miami-Dade County, and not only took a county that voted Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 30 points. We won it by double digits. And so I think we have shown a pathway forward to be able to win, get the coalition necessary to win, but then, most important, because winning just gives you the ticket to the dance. Then what are you going to do with it? And I think what we have shown in Florida is, we understand how to actually take our shared principles and vision as conservatives and make them political reality. And that is just as important, to follow through with an election victory, as winning the election itself.

BENSON: Yes, he can say, Ron’s not a winner. Then you can look at the results. People can maybe judge that for themselves. I know you got to run. Just very quickly, since you mentioned President Biden, he’s taking a victory lap on the border. Can you believe that?

DESANTIS: It’s absolutely atrocious, but it raises the issue. We need a society that’s moored to the truth, and they have a situation where they can put out narratives, and a lot of corporate press outlets will repeat those narratives. I saw some of those saying that somehow there’s not a surge at the border. And it’s an absolute insult to our intelligence. I can tell you that there are communities overwhelmed by this. We see the fentanyl deaths mounting in our country. And so don’t whiz on my leg and tell me it’s raining.


BENSON: Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, the free state of Florida, on “The Guy Benson Show.” Governor, see you soon. Thank you so much for your time.

DESANTIS: Thanks. Bye-bye.