When I read Vanity Fair’s recent profile of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — and what he allegedly thinks of former President Donald Trump, his biggest potential rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination — it made me question what Cassidy Hutchinson was doing these days.
It seems so much longer than three months ago that Hutchinson, an aide to former Vice President Mike Pence, was called as a would-be blockbuster, surprise witness before the Jan. 6 committee. During her testimony, she said she’d been told Trump was so desperate to get to the Capitol during the riot there, he lunged at the wheel in the presidential limo and demanded the Secret Service get him there.
That story fell apart just hours after it was delivered, however: Multiple Secret Service agents said this never happened and were willing to testify before the committee to that effect. For whatever reason, they were never called, nor was the unnamed source Hutchinson relied upon ever identified to give their version of the story. As for Hutchinson, I’m sure she’s working on a book deal or something, but the would-be Alexander Butterfield of the Jan. 6 investigation has become almost as anonymous as she was the day before she testified.
But man, what a great story it made for the media during those 12 or so hours, right?
Thankfully, there’s no Secret Service agents who are going to offer testimony before any committee to refute Vanity Fair’s gossipy profile of DeSantis, which relies heavily on those unnamed-source anecdotes that sound so amazing almost everyone on social media couldn’t — and didn’t — believe them.
Without the juicy anecdotes, Gabriel Sherman’s Tuesday piece is literally the same primary pregame piece everyone’s been running about a Trump-DeSantis heavyweight bout for some time now: DeSantis has captured the zeitgeist in a way Trump no longer can by owning the libs on cultural issues and COVID restrictions, but he’s prickly, charisma-free and distant.
That’s just reporting yesterday’s news today, though — so the story instead is that the Florida governor has reportedly called Trump a “moron” and “f****** nuts.”
“Ron made more fun of Donald Trump than anyone I know,” a former DeSantis staffer said about how the then-congressman reacted to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“He thought Trump was f****** nuts,” another staffer said.
Other staffers recalled what happened after Trump got accused of anti-Semitism by the media for a remark during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition in December of 2015: “This room negotiates … perhaps more than any room I’ve spoken to, maybe more,” the then-candidate said.
“Ron came back to the office and said, ‘I can’t believe Trump said that!’ Then we pulled up old SNL videos of Trump doing Domino’s pizza commercials and stood around the computer making fun of Trump for 30 minutes,” a staffer said.
But then, Sherman wrote, Trump won, and DeSantis “pivoted.”
“He hung out at Trump’s Washington hotel, pushed a bill to defund the Mueller investigation, and shilled on Fox News,” Sherman wrote. “DeSantis’s MAGA makeover paid off when he ran for governor in 2018. During the GOP primary, Trump gave DeSantis two endorsements and propelled DeSantis to close a 17-point deficit on the front-runner, the state’s moderate agriculture commissioner, Adam Putnam.”
Now, of course, the two are political rivals — and so we have another former DeSantis staffer telling Sherman the explosive details of how it all went wrong and how things would get nasty during a presidential fight.
“He calls him a TV personality and a moron who has no business running for president,” the anonymous source said.
“DeSantis says the only way to beat Trump is to attack him head-on. He says he would turn to Trump during a debate and say, ‘Why didn’t you fire Fauci? You said you would build the wall, but there is no wall. Why is that?’”
The rest of the article, naturally, is all about how DeSantis is cynical, opportunistic and prickly (“I describe him as having the personality of a piece of paper,” reads another colorful quote from another ex-aide).
Which raises the question: If DeSantis is so unlikeable and has actually long thought Trump to be a real danger to the republic, why not go on record with these acerbic bon mots and anecdotes of rank cynicism?
Human Events senior editor and conservative activist Jack Posobiec seems to have one idea why this might be:
I don’t buy that DeSantis said this for one second pic.twitter.com/a7lRBCKYEw
— Jack Posobiec XLV (@JackPosobiec) September 27, 2022
Nor, in fact, is he alone.
— J. Travis Baker (@JTravisBaker) September 27, 2022
The media ran fake stories based on unverifiable “anonymous sources” every other week when Trump was in office. No big surprise they’re doing the same thing with DeSantis.
— John Hawkins (@johnhawkinsrwn) September 27, 2022
“Former staffer…” ok
— Willow (@DeborahBaigrie) September 27, 2022
When the sources are anonymous, the story is generally fake news.
— LifeNews.com (@LifeNewsHQ) September 27, 2022
And, as another user noted, conservatives tearing each other apart is good for business if you’re the liberal media:
They’re trying so hard to start a MAGA civil war
— Mostly Peaceful Memes (@MostlyPeacefull) September 27, 2022
Heck, I wasn’t even the only one who momentarily remembered Cassidy Hutchinson:
I think he said it when he was driving in the limo with Trump and Trump was grabbing the steering wheel away from the secret service.
— NowAndThen277 (@AndThen277) September 27, 2022
I don’t think there’s anyone doubting the fact DeSantis and Trump aren’t super-MAGA-pals right now. As The Washington Post noted in a materially similar — although more sober-minded — article on Saturday, Trump conspicuously hasn’t endorsed DeSantis for re-election this year (despite switching his official residency to Florida during his presidential administration), and DeSantis hasn’t asked Trump to campaign for him.
The odds are overwhelming one or the other will be representing the GOP in the 2024 presidential election — and there’s no reason for one to deliver ammunition for the other to use in the form of a fulsome endorsement or a request for campaign-trail aid. Likewise, as political rivals are wont to do, I’m sure both are grumbling about the other’s shortcomings.
As for the all-too-perfect quotes from former DeSantis staffers? Once I get definitive evidence of Trump struggling with Secret Service members, trying to grab the wheel of the presidential limo on Jan. 6, maybe then I’ll get around to considering whether these unnamed sources are more credible than they sound.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.