The war of words between President Joe Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continued Thursday, with the president pretending to not know the governor while speaking with reporters.
"Governor who?" Biden responded, when asked by NBC News White House Correspondent Kelly O'Donnell for his response to DeSantis' latest comments about the president.
The back-and-forth between Biden and DeSantis began Tuesday, when Biden advised DeSantis and other Republican governors to "get out of the way" and stop resisting the administration's COVID-19 guidance.
Biden's criticizism focused on the governors not mandating lockdowns and other measures aimed at containing the delta strain of the COVID-19 virus. Florida has seen hospitalization rates spike in recent days as more delta cases are confirmed.
“If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing," Biden said.
On Wednesday, DeSantis fired back, vowing to fight any federal mandates on vaccinations or masks in schools and accusing the administration of letting the virus spread by allowing migrants into the country at the southern border.
"So why don't you do your job, why don't you get this border secure, and until you do that, I don't want to hear a blip about Covid from you," DeSantis said.
Last Friday, DeSantis issued an executive order ordering school districts not to mandate the use of masks or they could risk losing state funding. Some school districts have already said they will defy the governor's order.
DeSantis has argued that vaccines are the best way to fight the virus while new restrictions amount to impediments on liberty.
"Joe Biden suggests that if you don't do lockdown policies then you should quote 'get out the way,'" DeSantis said. "But let me tell you this, if you're coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I'm standing in your way. I'm not gonna let you get away with it."
The feud comes as Florida has repeatedly broken records for hospitalized patients this week, and it and Texas accounted for a third of all new cases nationwide last week, according to the White House.
At a news conference Friday, DeSantis reiterated his view that residents should be the ones to decide whether they are at-risk from Covid.
"In terms of imposing any restrictions, you know, that's not happening in Florida, it's harmful, it's destructive, it does not work," DeSantis said at a news conference in Port St. Lucie. "We really believe that individuals know how to best assess their risk, we trust them to be able to make those decisions."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday turned up the administration’s criticism of the governor, saying it was a “fact” that DeSantis “has taken steps that are counter to public health recommendations."
“Frankly, this is too serious, deadly serious, to be doing partisan name calling,” Psaki said.
She added that administration officials remained in touch with Florida’s public health officials, despite DeSantis’ posture.
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