White House officials expressed surprise on Saturday when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis chose not to meet with President Biden during his visit to the state. The President had earlier mentioned that he would meet with the governor while touring areas of Florida affected by Hurricane Idalia, but this was later contradicted by DeSantis’ team.
A spokesperson for DeSantis responded to the situation, stating:
“In these rural communities, and so soon after impact, the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts,”
The conflicting statements prompted questions for FEMA Director Deanne Criswell and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Both officials confirmed that there had been an agreed location for the president’s visit and that security preparations were not a concern.
Jean-Pierre expressed her surprise, stating, “The president spoke with the governor. It was an understanding that the president said to him he was coming to Florida. We never heard any disagreement with it.”
Despite the apparent confusion, the officials did not speculate on whether political motivations were behind DeSantis’ decision, given that he is a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and could potentially challenge Biden.