White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre refused to assess Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ performance in responding to Hurricane Ian Friday — despite President Biden’s earlier claim that the Republican leader praised him.
It’s standard for politicians to set aside feuds and offer warm words for each other during times of crisis, but the kind remarks only flowed one way 48 hours after the Category 4 hurricane tore up Florida’s southwestern coast between Sarasota and Naples.
“Yesterday President Biden said that Gov. DeSantis … complimented him and praised the immediate response from the federal government,” CNN’s Kaitlan Collins told Jean-Pierre at her regular briefing. “Is that a sentiment that the president returns? Does the president think Gov. DeSantis has handled the response to this well so far?”
Jean-Pierre begged off, initially saying: “I can’t speak to the specifics of a private conversation” and that “we don’t want to make this about politics.”
“They are going to continue to coordinate. They are going to continue to have conversations,” Jean-Pierre continued, adding — in a discrepancy from Biden’s Thursday claim to have had “four or five” calls with DeSantis— that “they had, I believe, three conversations in just a week’s time about what they can do to help the communities in Florida.”
“But I don’t want to get into politics here,” Jean-Pierre repeated.
Collins followed up, saying: “I’m not asking about politics, I’m just asking if the president think that governor DeSantis has done a good job so far.”
Jean-Pierre again declined to directly assess DeSantis’ performance, saying, “I’m not going to get into particulars of who’s doing a good job and … who could do a better job, I should say.”
On Thursday, Biden told reporters at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Agency that he had a “very fine” relationship with DeSantis.
“He complimented me. He thanked me for the immediate response we had. He told me how much he appreciated it, said he was extremely happy with what was going on,” Biden said. “This is not about whether or — anything having to do with our disagreements politically. This is about saving people’s lives, homes, and businesses.”
Jean-Pierre and FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell caused a stir Tuesday by implying that Biden would not be calling DeSantis despite phoning three Florida mayors as the monster storm approached the state.
After receiving blowback, Biden placed his first call to DeSantis that night.