Republican presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis sparked backlash Saturday for a comment about Trump’s loyal base that critics say makes him sound like “Crooked Hillary” Clinton.
DeSantis sat down for a recent interview, making the case that the movement behind former President Donald Trump is rooted in personality and “totally detached from principle.”
“A movement can’t be about the personality of one individual,” he said. “The movement has got to be about what are you trying to achieve on behalf of the American people, and that’s got to be based in principle.”
Former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are considered top candidates vying for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. (Getty Images)
FOX NEWS POWER RANKINGS: THE OUTSIDERS OF THE 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL RACE
“Because if you’re not rooted in principle, if all we are is listless vessels that are just supposed to follow, you know, whatever happens to come down the pike on Truth Social every morning, that’s not going to be a durable movement,” he continued during an interview with the Florida Standard, referring to Trump’s social media website.
DeSantis said Trump’s base values loyalty to Trump over conservative principles and that “unless you’re kissing his rear end, they will somehow call you a RINO (Republican In Name Only).”
“There will be people who are huge Trump supporters like in Congress who have, like, incredibly liberal left-wing records that’s really just atrocious, and yet they’re viewed by some of these folks as, like, really, really good,” he said. “Then you have other people, you know, like a Congressman Chip Roy who’s endorsed me, Congressman Thomas Massie, these guys have records of principle, fighting the swamp that are second to none, and yet they will be attacked by some of these people and called RINOs.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, shakes hands with supporters after joining Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, right, at her “fair side chats” at the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines. (Fox News / Paul Steinhauser)
The Trump campaign and his supporters seized on the DeSantis comment about “listless vessels,” comparing it to Hillary Clinton’s infamous “basket of deplorables” remark during the 2016 presidential election.
“DeSantis is now running the same, failed playbook as Hillary Clinton,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung told Fox News Digital. “He called all Trump supporters ‘listless vessels’ just like Crooked [Hillary] did in 2016 when she called us ‘deplorables.’ How did that work out? He should stop listening to his establishment handlers and start listening to the American people telling him to go back home.”
Former President Donald Trump is shown at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey on Aug. 10, 2023. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images)
The DeSantis campaign fired back at the “dishonest media” in an X post that defended the governor’s remarks.
“The dishonest media refuses to report the facts – Donald Trump and some congressional endorsers are ‘listless vessels.’ Why? Because Trump and DC insiders feel he is entitled to your vote,” wrote press secretary Bryan Griffin.
“@RonDeSantis believes your trust should be earned and has the vision, plan, and record to beat Joe Biden and reverse the decline of our country,” he said. “That’s why Ron DeSantis will be showing up on Wednesday night to debate, and Donald Trump will not.”
“The media, DC insiders, and GOP grifting caucus are taking this hard because they know it’s true,” added Christina Pushaw, rapid response director for the DeSantis campaign.
REP NANCY MACE HITS BACK AT DESANTIS’ ‘LISTLESS VESSELS’ REMARK: ‘BEYOND ME’
The DeSantis campaign declined to comment further when reached by Fox News Digital on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is demanding the governor apologize “immediately” for his comments.
“To Hillary Clinton, Trump supporters are ‘deplorables.’ To Ron DeSantis, they are ‘listless vessels,’” wrote Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for Make America Great Again Inc. “The truth is, Trump supporters are patriots. Ron DeSantis is showing his true colors. The pressure of polling in third place is getting to DeSantis and now he is lashing out at the very same voters who got him elected governor. DeSantis must immediately apologize for his disgraceful insult.”
Republicans presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy stepped into the fray Sunday morning by slamming DeSantis as a “robot” politician.
“The real danger to our movement is the rise of ‘listless-vessel’ robot politicians who blindly follow the commands of their Super PACs,” Ramaswamy wrote on X.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“I don’t know why anyone running for president would put down half of the electorate and identify them, call them listless vessels because they support the former president,” Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., told Fox News on Saturday night. “And you’re right, he and I don’t always see eye to eye, but I call it like I see it.
“Why Ron DeSantis would do that while his numbers are tanking is really beyond me,” she added.
“Just like Crooked Hillary when she called Trump supporters deplorable, DeSantis can’t hide the hatred he has for the patriots who support my father,” wrote Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.