Bill Maher returned to TV Friday night with his first episode of “Real Time” since the Writers Guild of America strike began. Maher brought on Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis as his guest to discuss this week’s Republican presidential primary debate.
The two had plenty to talk about, including fellow primary candidate Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota. Maher told DeSantis, “He is not going to be president. This guy could start dating Taylor Swift, no one would care.”
Before the two managed to find a way to work Swift into the conversation, DeSantis made sure to plug Florida. Winning applause from the crowd, he told Maher, “If you ever have problems in California, now in Florida not only do we have no income tax, no vax mandates are allowed in the state of Florida.”
Maher joked that DeSantis’ outfit of choice — cowboy boots with a suit — is enough to keep Maher from visiting the Sunshine State.
The pair turned their attention to the debate, which Maher described as a “s–t show” and asked, “With Trump not in the [debate], what did you win?”
DeSantis told the host that he feels Trump is “missing in action” and that he “owes it to voters to show up and defend his record … you’ve got to go earn votes. So, I’m showing. I’m showing… here’s the thing, in the midst of all the show that happened, I was the guy that people said, ‘You know what? This guy’s actually acting like a president when the rest were not.’”
Maher also grilled DeSantis on his decision to enter the 2024 race at all, noting that he could have easily waited Trump out. As Maher put it, “Why run against Trump? You can’t disavow him because that’s the base, and yet you’re running against him … if [your] campaign was doing well, you wouldn’t be on this show.”
DeSantis told the audience that he was motivated to run to push for accountability for “what this government did to the country” during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including lockdowns and mask requirements.
As he put it, “The one thing about me and Florida, even my critics will acknowledge: if he says he’s going to do something, he will follow through and get the job done.”
Maher’s interview has been both celebrated and thoroughly mocked. As the Daily Beast put it, “A bromance blossomed before our very eyes.”
Watch the interview between Bill Maher and Gov. DeSantis in the video above.