Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declined to comment Monday when asked for his thoughts about the legal jeopardy of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a longtime political ally.
“I don’t have anything to say, anything else?” DeSantis said when a Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter asked about the embattled congressman.
Gaetz, a libertarian-leaning Republican from the Panhandle, is reportedly under Justice Department investigation for sex trafficking. Gaetz has denied allegations. No charges have been filed at this time.
DeSantis’ reticence on the Gaetz imbroglio bears examination given what was an aggressive cobranding with Gaetz during his 2018 run for Governor.
Though DeSantis has ascended to the pinnacle of conservative media stardom in 2021, he was no sure thing to do that in 2018 when he launched his primary bid.
Gaetz accompanied DeSantis on a three-stop tour of cities in June, joining DeSantis during question and answer sessions at those events. He also accompanied DeSantis to at least one debate during the primary campaign.
And once the primary was in the rear view, Gaetz only got rougher with DeSantis’ General Election opponent.
“I don’t know whether to call him Andrew Gillum or ‘Andrew Kill-‘em,’” Gaetz said during an October campaign event with DeSantis in Southwest Florida of DeSantis’ then opponent. The joke was about Tallahassee’s murder rate, and critics saw it as just another in a series of racial gaffes from the DeSantis side.
Gillum was under scrutiny at the time from the FBI, which was investigating larger issues in Tallahassee. Gaetz, in a statement that is ironic in retrospect, suggested a better name for the Democratic nominee would be “Andrew Guilty.”
Gaetz and DeSantis were fixtures at events not just in Gaetz’s home Panhandle, but throughout the state. He ended up with a plum prize, of course, a prominent role on the Governor’s transition team.
However, Gaetz has long since become a political liability. And DeSantis clearly will cut off any questions about his former running buddy, unless or until he wants to answer them in a forum and to an interviewer of his choosing.