Ron DeSantis makes ‘a few selective edits’ about role in force-feeding Guantánamo Bay detainees
Ron DeSantis

The Governor previously said his job at the base included recommending things like force-feeding.

As he edges closer to announcing a run for President, Gov. Ron DeSantis is downplaying the influence he had on the decision to force-feed Guantánamo Bay detainees.

A resurfaced interview from less than five years ago shows him remembering things a bit differently.

DeSantis sat down this month with Piers Morgan for a one-hour conversation that touched on a variety of topics, from the war in Ukraine and former President Donald Trump to the rumor he was once observed eating chocolate pudding with three fingers instead of a spoon. (He denied ever doing such a thing.)

Morgan also raised the subject of DeSantis’ time as an officer and Navy lawyer at Gitmo in 2006, when prisoners committed to a mass hunger strike. Guards there ultimately restrained and force-fed many of them using nasal tubes — a practice the United Nations Human Rights Commission deemed a form of torture.

Numerous former detainees have since claimed they interacted with DeSantis during that time, and many news outlets, including The Washington Post, reported DeSantis backed the forced feedings.

The Post did not say DeSantis authorized the practice, as Morgan claimed.

“One of the things they said is you authorized the use of force-feeding,” Morgan said. “Was that true?”

DeSantis, who joined the Navy during his second year at Harvard Law School and was 27 while serving at Gitmo, said no.

“So, I was a junior officer. I didn’t have the authority to authorize anything,” he said. “There may have been a commander that would have done feeding if someone was going to die, but that wasn’t something that I would even have had authority to do.”

“So that’s wrong?” Morgan asked.

“Yeah, absolutely,” DeSantis said.

But DeSantis painted a somewhat different picture of his role in deciding to tube-feed detainees while talking to CBS News Miami investigative reporter Jim DeFede in August 2018, when the Governor was still serving in Congress.

Prompted by DeFede to describe the work he did at Guantánamo, DeSantis said he was a “legal adviser” who helped those running the facility navigate tough choices in dealing with detainees for whom “the jihad was still ongoing.”

Unprompted, the Governor brought up force-feeding, which he said was something a legal adviser there would recommend.

“They would wage jihad any way they can,” he said. “They would do hunger strikes, and you actually had three detainees that committed suicide with hunger strikes.

“So, everything at that time was legal in nature one way or another, so the commander wants to know, ‘Well, how do I combat this?’ So, one of the jobs of the legal adviser (was) to be like, ‘Hey, you actually can force-feed. Here’s what you can do. Here’s kind of the rules of that.”

Speaking about the two interviews Thursday, DeFede said he doesn’t believe DeSantis necessarily contradicted himself in his talk with Morgan. DeSantis was just more “expansive” in his earlier interview, DeFede said, and far more guarded in the new one.

“Here, he was trying to knock down the idea that he had anything to do with the force-feeding of folks by really relying on the word ‘authorizing,’ and at no time has anyone suggested that Ron DeSantis was the one authorizing the policy towards those detainees at Guantánamo,” DeFede said.

“He was simply there implementing policies established by others, but it’s interesting now when you hear him … sort of removing a lot of that context (to) almost make it seem as if he was nowhere to be found when it came to this.”

DeFede also noted another slight change in the language used by DeSantis.

“The other thing that I noticed a lot between the 2018 interview and the interview … with Piers Morgan is that Ron DeSantis used the phrase ‘force-feed’ and ‘force-feeding’ (in 2018). In the Piers Morgan interview, he only refers to it now as ‘feeding’ or ‘to feed the detainees,’ and I think that’s an interesting thing,” DeFede said.

“Now, there’s another interesting parallel here to me. In 2018, Ron DeSantis was sort of introducing himself. At that point, he was still relatively unknown statewide. He was waging a campaign. He’d been a Congressman for six years, and he was sort of introducing himself … and it’s almost like déjà vu all over again. Now here we are in 2023. He’s introducing himself to a national audience, a worldwide audience, and he’s again going through his biography — this time with a few selective edits.”

DeFede said he doubts the issue will impact DeSantis’ candidacy one way or the other, noting that former President Barack Obama defended force-feeding as a “better alternative to allowing the detainees to die as a result of their hunger strike.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • cassandra

    March 24, 2023 at 3:12 pm

    DeSantis did not enlist in the Navy. He went in as a Commissioned Officer. He was a lawyer—-not a fighter pilot—-who tested enlisted service members’ urine, and then prosecuted court martial cases.

    Students at Darlington High School, where he taught for only one year, reported that DeSantis was cruel and inappropriate with students, and that he bragged to students about his Ivy League education in a manner that made some students uncomfortable.

    Americans will not elect a President who encouraged torture or who exhibited inappropriate behavior with children.

  • tom palmer

    March 24, 2023 at 4:43 pm

    It is certainly true that as a junior officer, DeSantis did whatever he did in response to orders from his superiors. That is how the military works. Who cares how he eats pudding? I would focus instead on how he runs Florida as an authoritarian state. That is the true test on how he would perform as President, if he were nominated and elected.

  • Running Out of Popcorn

    March 25, 2023 at 8:44 am

    Ole Ron must have gone to RonJons recently because he’s sporting a bunch of new Flip-Flops. The oppo on this guy writes itself. Couple that with his cold fish personality and he’s a non-starter on the national stage. Let’s see how much “make America Florida” and “americas governor” merch you’ll be able to find 6 months from now after he really gets tested.

  • Biscuit

    March 25, 2023 at 8:58 am

    I just want to bite his ankle. Hard.

  • gloriajame

    March 25, 2023 at 12:27 pm

    Mike, great work. Since I currently make more than $36,000 per month from just one straightforward online business, I much applaud your effort! I am aware that you cn-17 can begin building a stable online income with as low as $29,000 and these are only the most fundamental internet operations jobs.
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  • PeterH

    March 27, 2023 at 12:31 am

    No surprise here! DeSantis lies like Trump. Two liars!

Comments are closed.


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