Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended a controversial video Wednesday that went after former President Donald Trump over LGBTQ rights and was shared by his campaign.
“Identifying Donald Trump as really being a pioneer in injecting gender ideology into the mainstream, where he was having men compete against women in his beauty pageants — I think that’s totally fair game, because he’s now campaigning saying the opposite,” DeSantis told conservative commentator Tomi Lahren in an interview for her streaming show “Tomi Lahren is Fearless.”
They were his first public comments on the video.
“A desperate DeSanctus campaign, with a flailing candidate, in its last throes of relevancy,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said when he was asked for comment on the remarks by DeSantis, one of his rivals for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
The video, shared on Twitter by the DeSantis campaign’s rapid response arm Friday, attacks Trump from the right and portrays him as a booster of LGBTQ rights. It features a clip of Trump saying he would “do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens” in a speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention — which took place shortly after the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando in DeSantis’ own state — and shows pictures of Trump with Caitlyn Jenner, the prominent trans Olympian-turned-celebrity.
The second part of the video attempts to depict DeSantis as a more masculine figure, showing headlines of his actions restricting LGBTQ rights, accompanied by pumping music and photos of muscular men.
Jenner made her disapproval clear in a reply to the post on Twitter, writing Saturday morning: “DeSantis has hit a new low. But he’s so desperate he’ll do anything to get ahead — that’s been the theme of his campaign.”
The video has drawn criticism — and some mockery — from across the political spectrum.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN on Sunday that he would “leave aside the strangeness of trying to prove your manhood by putting up a video that splices images of you in between oiled-up, shirtless bodybuilders.”
Ric Grenell, a former Trump administration official who is gay, described the video as “undeniably homophobic” on Twitter just hours after the campaign shared it.
The Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of LGBTQ Republicans, criticized DeSantis, writing on Twitter that he has “ventured into homophobic territory.” It added that DeSantis “has alienated swing-state and younger voters.”
DeSantis has been vocal about his push to restrict LGBTQ rights. Last year, he signed legislation that banned discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in public school classrooms up to the third grade, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. In May, he signed another bill barring transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identities and banning gender-affirming care for minors.
During his presidency, LGBTQ rights advocates also frequently criticized Trump for some of his policies, including banning transgender people from the military, removing Title IX protections for transgender students and barring U.S. embassies from flying Pride flags during LGBTQ Pride Month.