DeSantis says he won't fight with Trump over Truth Social photos with high schoolers: 'I don't spend my time trying to smear other Republicans'
Trump attacked DeSantis on Truth Social by sharing a photo of him with high schoolers when he was a teacher.
The post accused him of partying and drinking with high school girls.
"I don't spend my time trying to smear other Republicans," DeSantis said on Wednesday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday responded to former President Donald Trump's sharing of a photo alleging the governor drank alcohol with minors when he was a high school teacher.
"I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden," DeSantis said during a press conference in Ocala, Florida. "That's how I spend my time. I don't spend my time trying to smear other Republicans."
DeSantis generally takes questions from the media after most press conferences, on any topic. In this case the focus of the press conference was to announce massive tax cuts in Florida with GOP legislative leaders.
Unlike Trump's freewheeling style, DeSantis is scripted and disciplined during his public appearances. He doesn't take questions at the end of some events and at times he eschews public appearances.
Amid criticism from the former president, DeSantis generally has stayed away from hitting Trump directly. Instead, his messages tend to be more subliminal. On Tuesday, for instance, DeSantis held an event on defamation laws in which he praised a conservative lawyer who represented Dominion Voting Machines in its defamation lawsuit against Trump ally Mike Lindell.
In December, DeSantis announced several anti-COVID vaccine measures, taking aim at one of Trump's top presidential accomplishments but one his base despises due to the Biden administration's shot mandates. While he never mentioned Trump, he made the announcement geographically close to Mar-a-Lago.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Insider about DeSantis' comments.
DeSantis is widely viewed as a contender for the 2024 Republican nominaton for president. In various news profiles he's often referred to "Trump with a brain" or "Trump without the baggage," but the governor appears to be working to differentiate himself from the man who once supported and helped him win Florida in 2018.
Among those differences is message discipline. The governor made the remark Wednesday in response to a question from a reporter, though the reporter had asked the governor to focus on how new anti-defamation laws would assist in such cases, in which Trump reposted a photo of DeSantis on Truth Social.
DeSantis addressed that piece of the question — saying his goal with new legislation to empower non-public figures in libel suits against the press — but also hit Trump directly for his attacks, without naming him. It was clear that he expected the question and was prepared and wanted to answer it.
The picture Trump shared Tuesday shows a 23-year-old DeSantis smiling between three women with blurred out faces, whose ages aren't clear. One of the females in the photos is holding a brown glass bottle but DeSantis isn't pictured drinking. Still, the caption reads, "Here is Ron DeSantimonious grooming high school girls with alcohol as a teacher," followed by the vomit emoji.
"That's not Ron, is it? He would never do such a thing!" Trump wrote sarcastically on his social media app, Truth Social.
The "grooming" accusation was intended as a hypocrisy attack against DeSantis, whose staff have accused those who oppose his contentious sex education bill critics dub "Don't Say Gay" of "grooming." The term "grooming" typically refers to pedophiles who try to gain the trust of their underage victims so they'll accept sexual assault without telling an adult.
DeSantis didn't address the contents of the photo during his press conference on Wednesday.
The original message Trump reshared was from a user named Dong-Chan Lee, whose Truth Social describes him as a "paleoconservative" and Trump supporter.
Trump also attacked DeSantis Tuesday through sharing a screenshot of a Tampa Bay Times story in which DeSantis said he was "glad" violent Trump protestors had been arrested after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Trump, who does not drink alcohol, has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 26 different women. He has denied all the allegations.
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