Newsom and DeSantis Insult and Talk Over Each Other in Chaotic, Low-Stakes Fox News Debate

The California and Florida governors cosplay 2028 while arguing over immigration, taxes and Joe Biden’s “cognitive decline”

Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom Fox News Debate
Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom (Credit: Fox News)

Voters perhaps got a peek into the future of American politics Thursday night when California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis squared off in an awkward debate on Fox News, characterized by dueling insults and constant overtalking only occasionally reined in by an unsually tepid Sean Hannity serving as moderator.

But if it was a difficult-to-follow affair, at least the stakes couldn’t be lower. Newsom is not running for president in 2024 because, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Pres. Joe Biden will once again be the Democratic nominee. And while DeSantis is still technically part of the ’24 GOP primary race, his campaign isn’t doing well and even if it was, former Pres. Donald Trump is the clear front-runner.

Yes, Biden is now 81 years old and Trump faces multiple legal trials, so it’s not impossible that things might change, but for now the two dueling governors are basically cosplaying for 2028 where, they obviously hope, they’ll be their party’s standard bearers.

The forum, on the Sean Hannity show, offered a stark contrast between the two governors and their states. It also was clear the two governors do not like each other, and could barely stand to let the other answer a question without interrupting.

They also pulled no punches when insulting each other. “You’re a liberal bully,” DeSantis said to Newsom at one point; “You’re a walking hypocrite” Newsom told him.

In the sniping over which state is better, DeSantis naturally characterized California in almost apocalyptic terms, saying at one point, “in California you have the freedom to pitch a tent on Sunset Boulevard. You actually put in you have a freedom to drug market and use drugs. If you’re an illegal alien, you get all these taxpayer benefits.”

He added: ” These are not the freedoms our founding fathers envisioned, but they have contributed to the destruction of the quality of life in California and the results speak for themselves. People are leaving the state because the homeless population.”

And specifically, DeSantis frequently repeated that claim about California’s supposedly population drop, which of course he always attributed to the Golden State’s liberal political culture. That claim is however false, and has been repeatedly proven false in the years since it first made the rounds of conservative commentary. Fox News of course never lets a fact check get in the way of a good conservative talking point, and so it is that the falsehood went uncorrected throughout the debate.

Newsom for whatever reason never specifically pushed back against that specific assertion, but he generally dismissed DeSantis’ criticism, saying that California leads the country in many important ways, from manufacturing to software development, and is the fifth largest economy in the world.

“California simply has no peers,” Newsom said.

He called out Florida’s draconian anti-abortion laws and the election policies critics say restrict the right to vote for minorities, as well as Florida’s immigration policies, specifically pointing out the cruel stunt DeSantis did when dozens of migrant asylum seekers were tricked into relocating to states like Massachussetts and California with lies.

“I met with those migrants that you lied to,” Newsom said, pointing his index finger at DeSantis.

Desantis said Biden’s border policy that Newsom supports is a disaster, and noted numbers of people from hostile countries like Syria, Iran and China trying to get through the southern border. He blamed lax border control for fentanyl smuggling and increased threats of terrorism.

“Of course our enemies are going to take advantage of this,” DeSantis said.

Newsom said DeSantis and other Republicans use the border issue as a scare tactic, and spend too much time offending Mexico, the second largest trade partner for the United States. He said DeSantis fear tactics are an imitation of the last GOP president.

“You’re trying to out-Trump Trump. By the way, how’s that working for you, Ron?” Newsom said, referring to polling numbers showing DeSantis way behind Trump and other Republican hopefuls among Republican voters.

DeSantis said Newsom was lying, and made clear to voters what he thinks of Newsom.

“This is a slick, slippery politician whose state is failing,” DeSantis said, before once again trotting out, unchallenged, the false claim that “people are leaving California in droves.”

The insults and over-talking got to be so much that Hannity even asked the governors several times to “breathe” and let each other talk.

“I don’t want to be the hall monitor. Please don’t make me into that,” Hannity pleaded with the two men.

The governors clashed over education and protecting children and parents’ rights. DeSantis said his state has banned certain books for school use for young children to protect the children and to support parents’ wishes.

Newsom said he finds DeSantis’ efforts in schools to be demeaning to the LGBTQ community and other minority voices.

“What you’re doing is using education as a sword for your cultural purge,” Newsom said.”I don’t like the way that you demean people. This is a core value that distinguishes the values of my state and frankly the vast majority of Americans against the weaponization of education. You are on a book-banning binge in your state.”

The governors could not be farther apart on assessing Biden’s fitness for the presidency and if he is in “cognitive decline” as proposed by Hannity.

“Yes, he’s in decline. He has no business running for president,” DeSantis said. “He’s not up to the job, and it’s dangerous for America.”

Newsom laughed and said “I will take Joe Biden at 100 versus Ron Desiantis any day of the week.”


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