Florida governor and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis said on Friday that Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was rigged are not true.
“All those theories that were put out did not prove to be true,” Mr DeSantis told The New York Times during a campaign stop in Iowa.
“It was not an election that was conducted the way I think that we want to, but that’s different than saying Maduro stole votes or something like that,” he added. “Those theories, you know, proved to be unsubstantiated.”
Mr DeSantis, seen as the former president’s chief rival in the Republican primary, has in the past largely avoided direct criticisms of Mr Trump’s repeatedly disproven election claims.
“We must reject the culture of losing that has impacted our party in recent years. The time for excuses is over,” Mr DeSantis said in a speech earlier this yer, before he formally announced his presidential campaign. “If we get distracted, if we focus the election on the past or on other side issues, then I think the Democrats are going to beat us again.”
The former president’s repeated falsehoods are back in the spotlight, after Mr Trump was indicted this week for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the presidential election results.
“The attack on our nation’s capitol on January 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy,” special counsel Jack Smith said on Tuesday, announcing the charges. “As described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies. Lies by the defendant targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the US government – the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.”
Mr Trump’s rivals have seized on the indictment as the 2024 campaign heats up.
Former Trump administration vice president Mike Pence recently told Fox News he had to resist Donald Trump and “his gaggle of crackpot lawyers.”
“The American people deserve to know that President Trump and his advisers didn’t just ask me to pause,” he said on Wednesday. “They asked me to reject votes, return votes, essentially to overturn the election.”
Mr DeSantis, however, has sided with Trump even as he criticises his underlying election claims.
“Washington, DC is a ‘swamp’ and it is unfair to have to stand trial before a jury that is reflective of the swamp mentality,” he said earlier this week of Mr Trump being tried in Washington. “One of the reasons our country is in decline is the politicization of the rule of law. No more excuses—I will end the weaponization of the federal government.”
A recent poll found that Donald Trump is still comfortably leading the pack of GOP hopefuls ahead of 2024, with 54 per cent support compared to his nearest rival, Ron DeSantis, who only had 17 per cent.