DeSantis to Reporter: ‘Stop Politicizing’ Hurricane Response

by Bethany Blankley


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed back against a reporter who he said was trying to politicize the state’s hurricane preparedness efforts.

The governor has been giving multiple briefings daily. At one briefing Tuesday, a reporter asked about remarks made by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Deanne Criswell earlier in the day.

The reporter said, “FEMA Administrator [Deanne] Criswell said today she acknowledged concerns about Florida’s … as it was said … lax response to the storm so far,” before being cut off by DeSantis.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, give me a break. That is nonsense. Stop politicizing, OK? Stop it. We declared a state of emergency when this thing wasn’t even formed. We’ve had people in here. We’ve had counties that have done a lot of hard work. And honestly, you’re trying to attack me, I get it, but you’re attacking these other people who’ve worked very hard. So that’s just totally false.”

The governor continued:

“I don’t think since I’ve been governor we’ve ever declared a state of emergency this early. We made sure we were very inclusive with it. We said that there was a lot of uncertainty and we’ve worked to make sure the preparations that have been done… and … you talk to people at the counties when they needed something, stuff gets there very quickly because of what Kevin and his team have done,” referring to Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.

The reporter was referring to a White House briefing held earlier in the day during which reporters repeatedly pressed Criswell about why President Joe Biden hadn’t called DeSantis about Hurricane Ian. What was initially Tropical Storm Nine has strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to make landfall in Florida and create widespread damage. Millions of Floridians have already evacuated.

Criswell said she personally met with DeSantis last Friday and her regional administrator is in Florida with the governor.

NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Peter Alexander asked her if Biden planned to directly communicate with DeSantis since he spoke to three Florida mayors on Monday.

“You spoke to several mayors down there, one of the mayors said that the primary concerns was complacency,” Alexander said. “I’m curious, the president spoke to big leaders. First question to you is about complacency, the second is you’ve spoken to the governor of the state, why hasn’t the president? Is there a scheduled call for the two men to speak obviously as the preeminent leaders of the country and of that state?”

Criswell replied, “I do have concerns about complacency. We’re talking about impacts in a part of Florida that hasn’t seen a major direct impact in nearly 100 years. There’s also part of Florida that has a lot of new residents that have never experienced this type of threat. My message to them is take this very seriously, listen to your local officials …”

She said the president directed her to contact the governor “early on before we even did the declaration. We did that. My regional administrator is with the governor right now making sure we’re understanding what the needs are. Our focus is on the current life saving needs that need to be met.”

The complacency appears to relate to non-Floridians who haven’t experienced a hurricane before and local officials efforts to warn them to prepare and evacuate in areas where historic storm surges and potentially catastrophic flooding is expected.

DeSantis has been holding multiple news conferences daily, providing updates on the state’s preparedness and warning Floridians of the danger. On Monday, Biden expressed his support for Florida and said he spoke with three mayors directly but stopped short of calling DeSantis.

Washington Post White House reporter Matt Viser pointed out that Biden spoke with mayors and asked “why not the governor?” He also said, “In the past, President Biden has made calls to governors in situations of natural disasters, Kay Ivey in Alabama, Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas, or the governor in Texas. Can you articulate how those determinations are made and why it hasn’t been made in this case to have the president call the governor?”

Criswell replied, “Again, we have a strong team that’s in place supporting the governor right now, working side by side with him and his staff. We’ll continue to stay engaged with him.”

At one briefing on Tuesday, DeSantis said, “I’m happy to brief the president if he’s interested in hearing what we’re doing in Florida.

“My view on all this is like, you’ve got people’s lives at stake, you’ve got their property at stake and we don’t have time for pettiness. We gotta work together to make sure we’re doing the best job for them, so my phone line is open.”

By Tuesday night, however, the president and governor had spoken.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted, “President Biden spoke this evening with Governor DeSantis of Florida to discuss the steps the Federal government is taking to help Florida prepare for Hurricane Ian. The President and the Governor committed to continued close coordination.”

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Bethany Blankley is a contributor to The Center Square. 
Photo “Ron DeSantis” by Ron DeSantis. 




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