Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attempted to clarify comments he made about Democratic 2024 candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., saying he would not put him in charge of a federal agency.
“It wouldn’t be he would be the head of CDC,” Mr. DeSantis told independent journalist Megyn Kelly in an interview last Friday, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “That would be a doctor or a PhD.”
“I’m going to have probably a task force to go in there, hold people accountable for COVID, hold people accountable for what [has] happened,” Mr. DeSantis continued. “It would be more in that role that I’d want to get a bipartisan group of people together who understand the problem, understand the federal government’s COVID response was a disaster.”
Days before that, the Florida governor suggested that he would place Mr. Kennedy, a Harvard-educated lawyer who has long been a skeptic of childhood vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines, to investigate the CDC or the Food and Drug Administration. However, he ruled out Mr. Kennedy joining his administration as vice president.
“If you’re president, sic him on the FDA if he’d be willing to serve,” Mr. DeSantis said in an interview with host Clay Travis, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Or sic him on [the] CDC,” he said. “But in terms of being [vice president]—if there is, you know, 70 percent of the issues that he may be averse to our base on … that just creates an issue.”
Mr. Kennedy, who is polling second behind President Joe Biden by between 40 or 50 percentage points, has not responded.
Some GOP candidates for president, including former Vice President Mike Pence, criticized Mr. DeSantis in a Twitter post. “When I am President, I will only consider Pro-Life Americans to lead FDA, CDC, or [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services],” Mr. Pence said. “To be clear, pro-abortion Democrats like RFK, Jr. would not even make the list.”
Also in his interview with Mrs. Kelly, the Florida governor said he would also nominate individuals such as Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford University professor who was a notable early opponent of lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, to head a medical agency. In 2012, Mr. Bhattacharya served on a roundtable for Mr. DeSantis about Big Tech censorship that targeted skeptics of vaccine mandates and lockdowns.
Mr. Kennedy is currently trailing Mr. Biden with 14.3 percent to the president’s 66 percent in the latest RealClearPolitics aggregate of Democratic primary polling. The website also shows that Mr. DeSantis has 18 percent support, whereas President Donald Trump has 52 percent among Republican primary voters.
Several days ago, Mr. Kennedy defended his odds of victory. “I’m up against a very, very formidable force—the Democratic Party,” he said. “But I also think that I have a lot of paths to victory.”
Last week, Mr. DeSantis’s campaign reshuffled and laid off a large portion of its staff amid reports of spending concerns. In his interview with Mr. Travis, the Florida Republican detailed how the campaign will be re-adjusting and would prioritize his ground game in some early voting states.
“We had a campaign for a nationwide election, which will happen eventually, but that’s not how the primaries are, so we’re shifting resources to the early states,” Mr. DeSantis said.
Also in the interview, Mr. Travis asked him if he would be willing to run as Mr. Trump’s vice president. “I’m running for president to beat Biden,” he answered. “Doing number two, I mean, it just doesn’t appeal to me, and I don’t think I would be good at it. I think I’m probably more valuable doing other things.”
He added, “I’m running to win, and that’s the only reason I’m running. So, we’ll either do it or not.”