Fact-checking attacks against Ron DeSantis by other GOP presidential hopefuls

PolitiFact | DeSantis’ rivals for the Republican presidential nomination have attacked him on a few different issues.
Numerous Republican rivals for the GOP presidential nomination have criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' record as a U.S. representative and governor, and his feud with The Walt Disney Co.
Numerous Republican rivals for the GOP presidential nomination have criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' record as a U.S. representative and governor, and his feud with The Walt Disney Co. [ MATIAS J. OCNER | Miami Herald ]
Published May 28

Even before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered the 2024 presidential race, he faced criticism from Republican rivals who were waiting for him to make it official.

Those competitors include former President Donald Trump, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and businessperson Vivek Ramaswamy.

Here’s a look at some of their recent attacks about DeSantis’ record as a U.S. representative and governor, and his feud with The Walt Disney Co.

DeSantis’ beef with Disney

Disney and DeSantis have been in conflict for more than a year over the governor’s policy barring classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. When Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek objected to the policy, DeSantis moved to end Disney’s self-governance of its Orlando theme park and resort.

Disney on May 18 canceled a nearly $1 billion plan to build a new regional campus in Orlando.

Ramaswamy accused DeSantis of hypocrisy, saying on “Meet the Press” that the Florida governor signed “a last-minute exception into an anti-discrimination law for anyone who also operates a theme park more than 25 acres in Florida,” benefiting The Walt Disney Co. We rated that claim Mostly True.

Ramaswamy referred to a provision of SB 7072, a measure barring social media companies from “willfully deplatforming a candidate.” (Before the measure’s introduction, Trump was expelled from Facebook and Twitter for posts related to the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack.)

SB 7072 defined “social media platform” as excluding “any information service, system, internet search engine, or access software provider operated by a company that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex.” SB 7072′s theme park operator exception would protect Disney and its Disney+ video streaming service.

Related: DeSantis slammed a special Disney carveout. His staff helped write it.

Ramaswamy was correct in labeling the change a “last-minute” provision. The amendment containing the language was submitted April 29, 2021, the same day the full bill passed both legislative chambers. The bill’s previous versions lacked such references.

Haley similarly accused DeSantis of changing his tune on Disney, saying on the “America 180″ podcast that DeSantis “passed the largest corporate subsidies in Florida history for Disney in Florida.”

When Haley said that, her claim was largely accurate. Disney had planned to invest as much as $864 million to build a regional headquarters in Orlando’s Lake Nona community and move at least 2,000 employees from California. But the project collapsed. If it had been completed, Disney would have qualified for up to $570 million in tax capital investment credits from Florida over 20 years.

That would have been the largest documented corporate tax incentive the Florida government has approved for a single project, data from Good Jobs First, a research center tracking government tax credits for corporations, showed.

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DeSantis’ congressional record on taxes

MAGA Inc., a pro-Trump political action committee, seemed to hark back to DeSantis’ days in the House Freedom Caucus. It ran an ad in Iowa that said, “In Congress, Ron DeSantis pushed a 23% national sales tax where the middle class pays more.” We rated that Half True.

The ad referred to the Fair Tax Act, a measure DeSantis co-sponsored in Congress to introduce a 23% federal sales tax and eliminate income, estate, payroll and gift taxes along with the Internal Revenue Service.

The Fair Tax Act has been introduced in Congress repeatedly since 1999. DeSantis co-sponsored Fair Tax bills in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence have supported the idea.

DeSantis hasn’t mentioned the idea in years.

DeSantis’ record as Florida governor

Trump has criticized DeSantis more than any other rival.

In March, the former president on Truth Social described DeSantis as “a big lockdown governor” and accused him of “sealing all beaches and everything else for an extended period of time.”

DeSantis had written in his recent book, “The Courage to Be Free,” that he kept Florida’s beaches open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although we found DeSantis’ open beaches statement misleading, Trump’s suggestion that DeSantis closed all beaches was off base, too. We rated Trump’s claim Mostly False.

On March 17, 2020, at the pandemic’s onset, DeSantis issued an executive order directing all Florida residents to “limit their gatherings” at public beaches to 10 people maximum and to “support beach closures at the discretion of local authorities.”

He also ordered beaches in Broward and Palm Beach counties to close for 11 days, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local officials’ guidance. But DeSantis’ refusal to close beaches to spring break crowds drew criticism and litigation.

Turning to voting, Trump attacked DeSantis on SB 7050, calling the elections regulation measure “a total mess.”

“Instead of getting tough, and doing what the people want (same day voting, Voter ID, proof of Citizenship, paper ballots, hand count, etc.) this Bill guts everything,” Trump said April 30 on Truth Social, after the bill passed the Florida Legislature with Republican support.

We rated that False.

SB 7050 doesn’t deliver all of what Trump wants, and we found no evidence that it removes existing election security standards, such as requiring paper ballots and voter ID.