Donald Trump has again denied ownership of the latest un-savoury nickname for the man shaping up to be his biggest rival in the Republican party.
The former president has repeatedly shot down a New York Times report claiming that he had taken to calling Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “Meatball Ron” – with his latest denial coming after midnight on Saturday.
“I will never call Ron DeSanctimonious ‘Meatball’ Ron, as the Fake News is insisting I will,” he wrote on Truth Social. “Even though FoxNews killing lightweight Paul Ryan is revered by him, Low Energy Jeb Bush is his hero and always at his side, 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, it would be totally inappropriate to use the word “meatball” as a moniker for Ron!”
Days earlier, Mr Trump denied the Times story detailing his “apparent dig” at Mr DeSantis’ appearance in a different Truth Social post.
”All of the Fake News is reporting that I spend large amounts of my time coming up with a good “nickname” for Ron DeSanctimonious, who is obviously going to give the presidential “thing” a shot. They are all 100% wrong, I don’t even think about it — A very unimportant subject to me!!!” wrote the former president on 13 February.
For a long time, Mr Trump’s strategy for attacking his political rivals has resorted to childish and offensive name-calling.
Since the November midterms – where many of Mr Trump’s endorsed candidates performed poorly while Mr DeSantis emerged as a GOP favourite for the 2024 White House race – the Florida governor has borne the brunt of his outbursts.
Most recently, Mr Trump tried to brand him “Ron DeSanctimonious” – a nickname that may not have taken off quite the way Mr Trump would have liked.
Last week, the former president went even further – amplifying a suggestion that Mr DeSantis “groomed” teenage girls and drank with his students back when he was a high school teacher.
Mr DeSantis, who has largely avoided engaging with the former president’s criticism, responded by saying he is too busy “delivering results” and “fighting against Joe Biden” to get into it with his one-time ally.
In a series of Truth Social posts, Mr Trump promoted a photo posted by another of a man resembling Mr DeSantis standing with a group of young women, one of whom appears to be holding a beer bottle.
“Here is Ron DeSanctimonious grooming high school girls with alcohol as a teacher,” a caption on the user’s post reads, using Mr Trump’s derrogatory nickname for the Florida governor.
Mr Trump reshared the image multiple times.
“I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden. That’s how I spend my time,” Mr DeSantis said at a press conference on Wednesday.
“I don’t spend my time trying to smear other Republicans.”
The Florida leader added he has faced “defamatory stuff every single day I’ve been governor” but has a “thick skin.”
While Mr Trump has confirmed his intentions to run for president for a third time, Mr DeSantis is yet to announce his bid.
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