Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Dodges Key Questions in CNN Interview: Will It Hurt His Presidential Campaign?

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently sat down for an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, marking his first one-on-one interview with a mainstream news outlet since announcing his presidential candidacy.[0] This move is a departure from his previous strategy of only speaking to Republican Party-aligned media. However, while DeSantis may have agreed to the interview, he conspicuously avoided answering many of the most newsworthy questions posed to him.

One of the key topics discussed during the interview was the possibility of holding former President Donald Trump accountable if special counsel Jack Smith finds evidence of criminality.[1] When specifically asked if Trump should be held accountable, DeSantis deflected and instead talked about what he perceives as unfair treatment of Republicans by federal agencies.[2] He expressed hope that Trump would not be charged, despite the fact that Trump has denied any wrongdoing.[2]

Tapper followed up by pointing out that Smith has also prosecuted Democrats, implying that his investigation is not politically motivated.[1] However, DeSantis once again dodged the question, this time insinuating that Smith may be charging Trump simply because he is a Republican. Throughout the interview, DeSantis refused to directly address whether Trump is innocent or whether he should be immune from prosecution.

DeSantis has long been known for his avoidance of mainstream media outlets, instead opting for conservative media where he receives favorable coverage and is rarely challenged.[3] This strategy has allowed him to avoid tough questions and scrutiny. However, as a presidential candidate, he will need to appeal to a broader audience and face tougher questions. Many of his advisers have urged him to engage with mainstream media and sharpen his oratory skills, but he has largely disregarded this advice.[3]

The interview with Tapper also touched on DeSantis’ conservative record in Florida and concerns that voters may view him as “less electable” than Trump.[4] DeSantis responded to these concerns by saying, “The proof is in the pudding.”[4] However, his refusal to answer key questions during the interview may only fuel further doubts about his electability.

One of the questions DeSantis avoided answering was whether he would sign a national six-week abortion ban, similar to the one he signed in Florida.[5] Instead of giving a direct answer, he spoke about the lack of progress on abortion in Congress and expressed concern that if Republicans lose the election, abortion could be nationalized up until the moment of birth.[3] This evasive response leaves room for speculation about his stance on abortion rights.

DeSantis’ campaign has also faced criticism for sharing a video that attacked Trump’s previous promise to protect LGBTQ rights.[3] The video, which was criticized as homophobic, featured oiled-up, shirtless bodybuilders and accused DeSantis of passing “anti-trans” bills in Florida.[6] This move drew backlash from LGBTQ conservatives, who called it divisive and desperate.

Overall, DeSantis’ interview with CNN revealed his reluctance to answer tough questions and engage with mainstream media. While this strategy may have worked for him as governor, it remains to be seen whether it will be successful on a national stage. As he continues his presidential campaign, DeSantis will need to demonstrate transparency and willingness to address important issues if he hopes to gain the support of a broader audience.

0. “DeSantis Needs to Take Scalps at CNN” National Review, 17 Jul. 2023, https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/desantis-needs-to-take-scalps-at-cnn/

1. “DeSantis Finally Takes Real Questions But Won’t Answer Them” New York Magazine, 18 Jul. 2023, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/07/ron-desantis-cnn-interview-jake-tapper-abortion-ukraine-trump-prosecution-jack-smith.html

2. “DeSantis talks Trump, trans issues and ‘what wokeness is'” ABC News, 19 Jul. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/desantis-talks-trump-trans-issues-wokeness/story?id=101409112

3. “CNN exclusive: DeSantis downplays concerns about the state of his 2024 campaign” CNN, 18 Jul. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/07/18/politics/ron-desantis-jake-tapper-interview-cnntv/index.html

4. “DeSantis targets big media in CNN interview” FOX 35 Orlando, 20 Jul. 2023, https://www.fox35orlando.com/video/1250802

5. “On CNN, DeSantis ducks abortion issue, says campaign is strong” Orlando Sentinel, 18 Jul. 2023, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/2023/07/18/on-cnn-desantis-ducks-abortion-issue-says-campaign-is-strong/

6. “The Humiliation of Ron DeSantis” The Atlantic, 19 Jul. 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/07/ron-desantis-cnn-interview/674751/

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