Trump trolls DeSantis for changing the pronunciation of his last name

Trump and DeSantis at a rally in Pensacola, Florida on November 3, 2018.
Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

  • Ron DeSantis’ latest Trump troll is about how the GOP governor pronounces his name.
  • The ex-president’s taunt underscores how he is increasingly turning against a former ally.
  • In the 1930s and 1940s, DeSantis changed the way he pronounced his last name.

Former President Donald Trump appears to have launched a new taunt against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and it has to do with how he pronounces his first name.

For months, Trump has attacked DeSantis with the expectation that he will challenge him for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. He has tried nicknames and, according to Politico, the campaign has been building an oppositional record against DeSantis, who has become a rising star in the party but whose personal life is still not well known.

In the latest dig, posted Friday morning, Trump re-shared a video of DeSantis on Truth Social. The video combines various appearances in which the governor is introduced by name. In the clips, DeSantis shifts the pronunciation of his last name from “Dee-Santis” to “Deh-Santis.”

“Who changes the pronunciation of their own last name in their 40s? Is there anything real about this guy?” asked Twitter and Truth Social user who goes by @_johnnymaga. The user, who declined to share his real name for the story, told Insider in a message on Twitter that he edited the video himself and is a Trump fan from Pennsylvania.

Trump shared the video without adding a comment of his own.

The former president touched on something that has been a longstanding issue in Florida. The name DeSantis is Italian, although the governor did not say what part of Italy his ancestors immigrated from or whether they changed the spelling of the name when they met with immigration officials, as is sometimes the case.

DeSantis pronounced his name “Dee-Santis” and his friends called him “D” when he was growing up in Dunedin, Florida, a small town near Tampa. According to a profile written by Insider about Casey DeSantis, Florida’s future first lady also called him “D” when they were dating.

But in the 1930s and 1940s, the way DeSantis pronounced his last name changed. The governor now more often uses the soft “D” — “deh Santis” — when speaking to crowds, though he sometimes slips into the former pronunciation. Florida officials and politicians who introduce him at rallies also use the soft “D” sound.

“This has been going on for a decade, maybe longer,” said Michael Binder, director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida, adding that he first noticed it when DeSantis was running for the U.S. House of Representatives. in 2012 his various runs for office, the pronunciation of the name will even change in campaign ads, Binder said.

“He was turning,” Binder said. “He was Deh-Santis one time and Dee-Santis another time. I thought we were down to Deh-Santis, but every now and then a Dee-Santis pops up. And it’s not appearing in the media or from surrogates, it’s coming out of his own mouth, so it’s very confusing.”

The question of how to pronounce “DeSantis” made headlines in 2018 when Trump endorsed the then-U.S. congressman for the Republican nomination for governor. At the time, DeSantis was not well known.

In 2018, the Tampa Bay Times suggested that Casey DeSantis rebrand DeSantis’ name under an article headlined “Tomato, Tomahto; Dee-Santis, Deh-Santis’. Florida’s first lady has been critical to her husband’s rise and to orchestrating his image and messages.

“He prefers Dee-Santis,” Steven Lawson, then DeSantis’ director of communications, told the Tampa Bay Times.

Binder said the controversy has confused him for years. “History is easy to correct,” Binder said. “Say my name is X and stick to it.”

Trump is known for attacking people’s names, looks and even habits. He made fun of DeSantis’ height and weight, giving him the nickname “Tiny D” or “Meatball Ron” (although the governor’s slimming figure made headlines).

In 2019, Trump said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s name was “unpronounceable” and suggested the exaggerated pronunciation “Boot-EDGE-EDGE.”

“They call him ‘Mayor Pete’ because nobody can pronounce his last name,” Trump said at a rally in Florida.

Buttigieg says his last name is pronounced “BOOT-edge-edge.” But just like the apparent marital discord with the DeSantises, Buttigeig’s husband, Chasten, used “boot-a-judge.”

For Trump, who has made his share of addresses — and whose name adorns his skyscrapers, golf courses, properties and merchandise — the latest blow is much more unpleasant than his previous attacks on DeSantis.

Binder said he didn’t expect Trump’s latest attack, but should have, and predicted Trump would use it at rallies.

“It’s right in Trump’s wheelhouse,” he said. “It’s something that makes sense to make fun of. One thing Trump is really good at is finding the absurd in every person. Ninety-nine percent of people know how to pronounce their last names. Going back and forth is not something most people do.”

Trump often shares his unfiltered thoughts on social media, grabbing headlines and distracting from other news. He is expected to be arraigned Friday or early next week in connection with an undercover payment made during his 2016 campaign to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

DeSantis’ team did not respond to a request for comment. Perhaps he will clear his name – and how shall I say it – at a later date.

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