Trump shares video mocking DeSantis’ flip-flop on how to say his name. The pronunciation question goes back a decade.
- Trump’s latest troll of Ron DeSantis is about how the GOP governor pronounces his name.
- The former president’s taunt underlines how he has increasingly turned against a former ally.
- In his 30s and 40s, DeSantis has changed how he says his last name.
Former President Donald Trump appears to have landed on a new taunt against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and it has to do with how he pronounces his own name.
For months, Trump has been attacking DeSantis with the expectation that he’ll challenge him for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. He’s been testing out nicknames and, according to Politico, the campaign has been assembling an opposition file against DeSantis, who has become a rising star in the party but whose personal life still isn’t well known.
In the latest dig issued Friday morning, Trump reshared a video of DeSantis on Truth Social. The video spliced together various appearances in which the governor introduced himself by name. In them, DeSantis shifts from the phonetic pronunciation “Dee-Santis” to “Deh-Santis.”
“Who changes the pronunciation of their own last name in their 40s? Is there anything genuine about this guy?” asked a Twitter and Truth Social user who goes by the handle @_johnnymaga. The user, who declined to share his real name for the story, told Insider in a Twitter message that he edited the video himself and was a Trump fan from Pennsylvania.
—johnny maga (@_johnnymaga) March 17, 2023
Trump shared the video without adding his own commentary.
The former president has tapped into something that’s been a longstanding question in Florida. The name DeSantis is Italian, though the governor hasn’t shared which part of Italy his ancestors immigrated from or whether they changed the name’s spelling when they met with immigration officials, as was sometimes common.
DeSantis used to pronounce his name “Dee-Santis,” and friends called him “D” when he was growing up in Dunedin, Florida, a small town near Tampa. According to a profile Insider wrote about Casey DeSantis, the future first lady of Florida also called him “D” when they were dating.
But into his 30s and 40s, how the DeSantis pronounced his surname shifted. Now, the governor more often uses the soft “D” — “deh Santis” — when he speaks before crowds, though he occasionally slips into the previous pronunciation. Officials in Florida and politicians introducing him at rallies also use the soft “D” sound.
“It’s been going on for a decade, maybe longer,” Michael Binder, director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida, said, adding that he first noticed it when DeSantis was running for the US House in 2012. During his various runs for office, the name pronunciation would even change in campaign ads, Binder said.
“He was flipping,” Binder said. “He was Deh-Santis one time and Dee-Santis another time. I had thought that we settled on Deh-Santis but every now and then a Dee-Santis pops up. And it’s not popping up in the media or from surrogates, but it’s coming out from his own mouth, so it’s very confusing.”
The question of how to pronounce “DeSantis” made headlines in 2018 when Trump endorsed the then-US congressman for the GOP nomination for governor. At the time, DeSantis wasn’t well known.
In 2018, the Tampa Bay Times suggested that Casey DeSantis rebranded DeSantis’ name, under a story headlined “Tomato, Tomahto; Dee-Santis, Deh-Santis.” Florida’s first lady has been crucial in her husband’s rise and in orchestrating his image and messaging.
“He prefers Dee-Santis,” Stephen Lawson, then-DeSantis’ communications director, told the Tampa Bay Times.
Binder said the dispute has confounded him for years. “It’s an easy story to fix,” Binder said. “Say my name is X and stick to it.”
Trump is known for making attacks on people’s names, looks, and even habits. He has mocked DeSantis’ height and weight, nicknaming him “Tiny D,” or “Meatball Ron,” (though the governor’s slimming figure has been making headlines).
In 2019 Trump said that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s name was “unpronounceable” and offered the over-the-top pronunciation “Boot-EDGE-EDGE.”
“They call him ‘Mayor Pete’ because no one can pronounce his last name,” Trump said during a rally in Florida.
Buttigieg says his last name is pronounced “BOOT-edge-edge.” But just like the apparent spousal disagreement with the DeSantises, Buttigeig’s husband, Chasten, uses “boot-a-judge.”
For Trump, who has done his share of name calling — and whose name decorates his skyscrapers, golf courses, properties, and merch — the latest jab is far more pedestrian than his previous attacks on DeSantis.
Binder said he didn’t see Trump’s latest attack coming, but that he should have, and predicted Trump would use it at rallies.
“This is right in Trump’s wheelhouse,” he said. “This is something that makes sense to make fun of. One thing Trump is really good at is finding the absurdity for the everyman. Ninety-nine percent of people know how to pronounce their last names. Going back and forth isn’t something that most people do.”
Trump often shares his unfiltered thoughts on social media, grabbing headlines and distracting from other news. He’s expected to face an indictment on Friday or early next week in connection to a hush-money payment made during his 2016 campaign to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
DeSantis’ team did not respond to a request for comment. Perhaps he’ll clear his name — and how to say it — at a later date.