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All of Ron DeSantis’s Crimes Against Good Etiquette

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Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images/Ten Speed Press

Donald Trump is a man so notoriously self-centered that during his presidency we had a public debate about whether it was ethical to diagnose him with narcissistic personality disorder from afar. Yet somehow, he handily won the 2024 charm contest over Ron DeSantis. As the Florida governor launched his presidential run, people started coming out of the woodwork to make a shocking allegation: The guy who made a name for himself by bullying mask-wearing children, teachers, LGBTQ+ people, and Mickey Mouse isn’t a very nice person. “I think he’s an asshole,” said former congressman David Trott. “I don’t think he cares about people.”

Obviously, plenty of assholes who don’t actually care about people have made their way to the White House. But DeSantis’s lack of social grace seemed to alienate voters and irk some figures he needed on his side to defeat Trump in a GOP primary. Here’s a running list of the alleged personal slights and etiquette violations that may have contributed to DeSantis’s decision to drop out of the race before the New Hampshire primary.

In an excerpt from his book The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty, which was published in New York, Michael Wolff reported that Tucker Carlson invited DeSantis to lunch at his home in Florida in spring 2023 to see if he could back Rupert Murdoch’s preferred candidate. DeSantis wound up alienating Carlson and his wife, Susie, by behaving boorishly and pushing — or possibly even kicking — their beloved dog:

They failed it miserably. They had a total inability to read the room — one with a genteel, stay-at-home woman, here in her own house. For two hours, Ron DeSantis sat at her table talking in an outdoor voice indoors, failing to observe any basics of conversational ritual or propriety, reeling off an unself-conscious list of his programs and initiatives and political accomplishments. Impersonal, cold, uninterested in anything outside of himself. The Carlsons are dog people with four spaniels, the progeny of other spaniels they have had before, who sleep in their bed. DeSantis pushed the dog under the table. Had he kicked the dog? Susie Carlson’s judgment was clear: She did not ever want to be anywhere near anybody like that ever again. Her husband agreed. DeSantis, in Carlson’s view, was a “fascist.” Forget Ron DeSantis.

Wolff later stated that this anecdote came from Carlson — a consummate source for journalists despite his public protestations of the rest of the media.

The legend of Pudding Paws DeSantis is so gross that Team Trump made a whole ad about it. Per the Daily Beast:

Enshrined in DeSantis lore is an episode from four years ago: During a private plane trip from Tallahassee to Washington, D.C., in March of 2019, DeSantis enjoyed a chocolate pudding dessert—by eating it with three of his fingers, according to two sources familiar with the incident.

While extreme, it seems the pudding incident wasn’t totally out of character for DeSantis. A former staffer said he was known for devouring food during meetings.

“He would sit in meetings and eat in front of people,” the former DeSantis staffer told the Daily Beast, “always like a starving animal who has never eaten before … getting shit everywhere.”

Though a viral video of DeSantis saying “mmm hungwy” when presented with a burger is fake (it’s from a Bad Lip Reading video), the fact that so many people found it plausible was not a good sign for his campaign.

DeSantis allegedly didn’t bother to get to know members of his security deal, and would leave garbage in the state car. Per the Washington Post:

Former senior officials in the state government said he largely avoided conversations with them, instead sending diktats through his chief of staff or senior advisers. Two former government officials familiar with his security detail said he often did not speak to members or know their names — and would leave food wrappers and other items in the back of the state car. A photo reviewed by The Post confirmed that.

Supposedly DeSantis wasn’t just cool to Gwen Graham, who lost Florida’s 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary to Andrew Gillum, he wouldn’t even take his earbuds out to acknowledge her existence. The Washington Post reported:

In Florida politics, one incident is repeatedly discussed — and was confirmed by people with direct knowledge of the matter to The Post. At a Florida airport with former congresswoman Gwen Graham, a gubernatorial candidate in the 2018 election cycle, Graham came up and spoke to DeSantis. He stared ahead, leaving his earphones in and acted like he did not recognize her, according to three people familiar with the incident. Graham later told people it was one of the most bizarre moments of her political career.

Trott, a Michigan Republican, reached out to Politico to go off on his former colleague’s rudeness.

“I go to my first [House Foreign Affairs Committee] hearing early, and DeSantis showed up right at the gavel time and didn’t say hello or introduce himself,” Trott said. “And then the next hearing, the same thing happened. I think the third time it happened, I thought, ‘Oh, this guy’s not ever going to say hello to me.’”

Trott claimed that even after he took the initiative and introduced himself to DeSantis, he never acknowledged his existence. “I sat right next to DeSantis for two years on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and he never said a single word to me,” Trott told Politico.

Trott said he doesn’t think the snub was personal. DeSantis appeared to be an “arrogant guy,” and he never saw him palling around with other members. “He wasn’t really liked when he was in Congress,” Trott said.

Several key Trump allies and aides used to be close to DeSantis and are now fueled by their intense hatred of the governor, according to Rolling Stone. A source who flipped from Team DeSantis to Team Trump told the magazine:

“The nature of the conversations among the people who used to work for Ron is just so frequently: ‘OK, how can we destroy this guy?’ It is not at all at a level that is normal for people who hold the usual grudges against horrible bosses. It’s a pure hatred that is much, much purer than that … People who were traveling with Ron everyday, who worked with him very closely over the years, to this day joke about how it was always an open question whether or not Ron knew their names … And that’s just the start of it.”

A Trump adviser who also knows DeSantis told Rolling Stone that the governor is incredibly thin-skinned:

“Ron is not someone who can just ‘walk it off.’ I know because I made a lighthearted joke to him once, and he got mad and held it against me,” the Trump adviser adds. “Team Trump does not want to just beat him. Team Trump wants to humiliate him maybe more than they’ve ever wanted to humiliate anybody on a national stage … [and] that is what is driving a lot of this.”

In May 2021, Politico reported that DeSantis is such a terrible boss that his former staffers formed a “support group” that meets regularly to trade war stories about their time working for him.

A former congressional staffer told Vanity Fair, “I once had to drive him to the airport. We got stuck in traffic for an hour, and he didn’t say a word.” They added, “I describe him as having the personality of a piece of paper.”

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who is now DeSantis’s rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, told the Washington Post that DeSantis wouldn’t invite local Republicans to events:

When DeSantis has visited parts of the state, he has sometimes not invited the Republican leaders of the local areas, typically a courtesy extended by governors, said Francis Suarez (R), the mayor of Miami and a recent president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“He did multiple events in the city of Miami where we were not given an invitation,” said Suarez, who is now running for president. “There was a period of time where we were not invited to things, and this was not uncommon for mayors of Florida.”

Florida Lietenant Governor Jeannette Núñez denied this characterization, but acknowledge that the mayor wasn’t always included in DeSantis events. “He has been included in things,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we have to include him at every time. It doesn’t mean he has to be at every single one of our events.”

Joe Gruters, a state senator who served as chairman of Florida’s GOP for four years under DeSantis, said the governor treated him so poorly that he’d decided to endorse Donald Trump in 2024. Per the Washington Post:

DeSantis had backed Gruters for party chair but treated him poorly while he was chairman, speaking to him “infrequently” and rarely inviting him to meetings or events, he said. The governor tried to purge his staff, Gruters said. The governor didn’t trust many, he said, and would not even let ostensible allies like Gruters inside his orbit.

“The more he is met by people, the more they are not going to like him,” Gruters added. “The more he’s out there, the more his numbers go down. It’s not a good long-term scenario for him. I fully expected the downfall of his campaign a long time ago.”

Representative Greg Steube told Politico that the governor has ignored his friendly overtures for five years:

Just ask Steube, who told Playbook in a brief interview last night that DeSantis has never once reached out to him during his five years in Congress nor replied to his multiple attempts to connect. He recalled a recent news conference dealing with damage from Hurricane Ian where the governor’s aides initially invited him to stand alongside DeSantis, only to tell him that he wouldn’t be part of the event when he showed up.

Steube also told Politico that while Trump was the first person to call him after a January tree-trimming accident landed him in the ICU, “to this day I have not heard from Governor DeSantis.”

Florida congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna was endorsed by both Trump and DeSantis. But the New York Times reports that when her father died in a car accident in 2022, Trump sent her a condolence letter signed “Donald,” while the letter from the DeSantis camp was only signed by the governor’s wife, Casey.

Luna has endorsed Trump for president in 2024.

“Trump’s operation is personal,” Luna said, ahead of a dinner with Trump and members of the Florida congressional delegation who have endorsed him. “You take the time to actually get to know the people you’re going to be working with, and that does make a difference.”

This one isn’t really an etiquette breach, it’s just monstrous. Five former staffers told Politico that at the beginning of his administration, “DeSantis directed the Florida Republican Party leader to fire a party official who had cancer — on that person’s first week back from surgery.”

During his first gubernatorial campaign, DeSantis took flak for going on Fox News and urging voters not to “monkey this up” by supporting his Black opponent. Following the gaffe, DeSantis and his wife Casey “chewed out his campaign staff for not cleaning up the mess, according to three former staffers,” per Poltiico. “Shortly after, DeSantis brought in a whole new group of advisers.”

A person close to Representative Vern Buchanan, another Trump-backing member of Florida’s congressional delegation, told the Washington Post that Trump personally called to ask for an endorsement and invited him to dinner at Mar-a-Lago. “DeSantis’s outreach came through a pollster who advises him, Ryan Tyson,” according to the Post.

New York billionaire and major Trump donor John Catsimatidis ruled out backing DeSantis in 2024, telling the Washington Examiner, “Why would I support somebody to become president of the United States that doesn’t return phone calls?”

Even people who like DeSantis aren’t defending his social skills. Per the Post:

One person in DeSantis’s orbit said a dearth of warm interactions — even with staff and traditional allies — has hurt him with endorsements, lawmakers and donors. “He doesn’t like talking to people, and it’s showing,” said this person, who is a vocal supporter of DeSantis.

Some Michigan Republicans noticed that DeSantis didn’t seem that eager to spend time with them, and they told the New York Times about it:

Mr. DeSantis has also had difficulty at times connecting with potential supporters as he has traveled the country on a book tour. At an event this month in Michigan, he irritated some Republicans who said privately that he had spent little time with the crowd at a morning event and left another in the afternoon shortly after posing for pictures.

DeSantis reportedly “looked bored” and “stared at his feet” during an April meeting with more than 50 British business chiefs in London. A business figure who was in the room told Politico that it was a “low-wattage” performance and “nobody in the room was left thinking, ‘this man’s going places’.”

A veteran GOP strategist told Vanity Fair that DeSantis is even rude to major donors. “The biggest complaint you hear about DeSantis is that he never says thank you,” the strategist said. “People host events where donors give him enormous sums of money, and he never says thank you.”

This hardly seems rare for a politician, but one “prominent Republican” complained about DeSantis being extremely late to a fundraising event.

“He’s missing the sociability gene,” the Republican told Vanity Fair. “He doesn’t do the warm and fuzzies well. I was at a fundraiser in D.C. where he was like two hours late. Everyone was like, What the fuck?” recalled a GOP strategist.

The New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women released a statement on June 22 expressing their “disappointment” with DeSantis for scheduling an event in the state at the same time as their annual fundraising lunch, which Trump is headlining. The group asked the DeSantis team to reschedule his town hall, but they declined.

“It has always been a New Hampshire hallmark to be considerate when scheduling events,” the statement said. “To have a candidate come in and distract from the most special event NHFRW holds in the year is unprecedented.”

Several sources told Politico they were were dumbfounded by DeSantis’s decision to defy the prominent group.

“It’s the worst strategic move he has exhibited thus far,” New Hampshire-based Republican strategist Mike Dennehy said. “It’s just stupid, actually. You don’t take on the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women.”

Though Trump famously dubbed Senator Rubio “Liddle Marco,” and they sparred over penis size at a 2016 debate, it appears they now have a great relationship. The Florida senator told Semafor that they hung out at a recent UFC event, but he hasn’t heard from DeSantis for “a number of months.”

“I’m not saying that Marco and DeSantis have an awkward relationship,” one former Rubio aide told Semafor. “I think they just don’t have a relationship.”

The same is reportedly true of DeSantis and Florida’s other senator, Rick Scott. Per the Washington Post:

When his predecessor, Sen. Rick Scott (R), would call or text DeSantis about events in the state, such as hurricanes, his calls were not returned, according to people close to Scott. The two men have not spoken in years other than brief interactions at official events, the people said.

Even when he engages with the public, the guy just can’t win.

Does this count as an etiquette issue? It’s unclear; Emily Post didn’t cover smiling so robotically during a debate that you get turned into a meme.

Or somehow smiling with tongue:

Slate noted that as the GOP primary debates continued, “DeSantis’ smile [kept] revealing new dimensions of strangeness.”

No, derisively telling a child eating an icee “That’s probably a lot of sugar, huh?” isn’t very charming. But at least DeSantis didn’t inform this kid that the Tooth Fairy isn’t real.

The DeSantis 2024 campaign met a fittingly awkward end. He captioned his withdrawal video “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill.”

Unfortunately for DeSantis, Churchill “never said” those words, according to the Churchill Society. “We base this on careful research in the canon of fifty million words by and about Churchill, including all of his books, articles, speeches and papers,” the group wrote in a 2013 post about the commonly misattributed quote.

This post has been updated throughout.


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