Former President Donald Trump told Fox News Monday that he had no regrets on his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by leaving much of the decision-making up to state governors.
In the “Special Report” that aired Tuesday, the Republican recalled telling state leaders “you do what you want, you can shut it down or not.” This, Trump said, led to a wide variety of responses.
He gave examples of Georgia, which he said did an excellent job of handling the pandemic, and Florida, which he said “shut it down tight.”
— Isaiah McFarland (@perfectpeace) June 21, 2023
Specifically, the 2024 Republican frontrunner praised South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), recalling that “he didn’t shut it down.” Other states that stayed open for business were Tennessee and South Dakota.
Trump recalled that Georgia closed down briefly but then reopened. Florida, the home to his chief rival for the GOP nomination, Gov. Ron DeSantis, closed down everything. “No highways, no beaches, no this,” the former president explained.
Trump has a consistent message about his handling of the pandemic. He was recently asked by a voter in Iowa about the White House’s position on vaccines under his leadership. Trump correctly responded that everyone at the time wanted a vaccine to counteract COVID-19.
He noted that he was able to get a vaccine developed faster than anyone thought possible and that no one else could have accomplished that. But that’s where Trump drew the line, declaring that mandates were something that he never supported.
He told the voter that “I was never for mandates; I thought the mandates were terrible.”
Trump’s handling of the pandemic looms large over the Republican presidential primary race. The DeSantis campaign spotlighted the matter, focusing on lockdowns and the presence of Dr. Anthony Fauci in the White House even as controversy swirled over his recommendations.
On May 25, the Florida governor said that he believed Trump “did great for three years,” but then the pandemic came. DeSantis accused the former president of handing the nation over to Fauci and disrupting millions of lives.
Trump is hardly buying that train of thought. In fact, he is doubling down on the correctness of his actions in an unprecedented national crisis. He is also positioning himself on his permitting governors the flexibility to make decisions for their individual states.