(The Hill) – Former President Donald Trump announced early Saturday morning that he will not call Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “Meatball Ron” following reports that he used the insulting nickname privately.
“I will never call Ron DeSanctimonious ‘Meatball’ Ron, as the Fake News is insisting I will,” he said on the conservative social media site Truth Social.
“Meatball Ron,” a nickname The New York Times reported that Trump had used to describe the governor in casual conversations, is apparently a dig at DeSantis’ appearance and Italian heritage.
Dismissing the nickname did not stop the former president from criticizing DeSantis’ tenure as governor, however, as a potential presidential primary battle is on the horizon.
Trump has also used “Shutdown Ron” to describe DeSantis, referring to his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Times.
“His beaches and State were closed for long periods of time, his testing, testing, testing for the China Virus didn’t work out too well, and his loyalty skills are really weak,” Trump said in his Saturday post.
DeSantis is seen as the leading challenger to Trump for the GOP presidential nomination. While DeSantis has not yet announced whether he will officially enter the race, polls generally show him and Trump in close competition.
Trump has lobbed a number of attacks at the Florida governor in recent months. Earlier this month, the former president promoted a social media post alleging DeSantis was “grooming high school girls with alcohol” as a teacher when he was in his 20s. That follows reports that he partied with former students at a Georgia private school 20 years ago.
DeSantis derided Trump’s posts as a smear.
Trump announced his campaign for a second term in November and has usually referred to DeSantis as “Ron DeSanctimonious.” Trump also famously uses derogatory nicknames for his other political opponents, as well.