As Hurricane Ian whirled toward Florida, the Democratic president who invoked unity in his election campaign bypassed a Republican governor who has been critical of his policies while discussing emergency planning with local leaders.
Instead of speaking to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis himself, Biden delegated the task to Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On Tuesday, Biden spoke with two Democrats — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch — and one Republican — Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard — the White House press secretary said during a briefing the same day.
During the briefing, Criswell said she spoke with DeSantis on Friday.
When asked if Biden and DeSantis would talk, Criswell said, “As far as the conversation, the president directed me to contact the governor early on,” adding, “My regional administrator is with the governor right now.”
When asked why Biden did not call DeSantis, Criswell replied, “The president is very focused on making sure that the federal family has the right resources available to support this.”
In response to further questions about Biden declining to speak with DeSantis, Criswell said, “We do not bring politics into our ability to respond to these disasters.”
One reporter asked whether communication between Biden and DeSantis has any impact on how FEMA operates.
“Zero,” Criswell replied.
In comments shared on Twitter by Florida’s Voice, DeSantis brushed the issue aside, saying, “You got people’s lives at stake. You got their property at stake. We don’t have time for pettiness. We gotta work together to make sure we’re doing the best job for them. So my phone line is open.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis responds to reports he and President Joe Biden have not spoken: “I’m happy to brief the President if he’s interested in hearing what we’re doing in Florida […] We don’t have time for pettiness […] My phone line is open.” pic.twitter.com/mDg5gkGlfA
— Florida’s Voice (@FLVoiceNews) September 27, 2022
On Tuesday, DeSantis urged those in Hurricane Ian’s potential path to evacuate, according to the New York Post.
“What we have here is really historic storm surge and flooding potential,” DeSantis said. “In some areas there will be catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surges.”
According to WYFF-TV, the storm is expected to hit Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina after it hits Florida.
UPDATE, Sept. 28, 2022: Shortly after the publication of this article, several outlets reported that Biden did, in fact, call and speak with DeSantis after the latter’s news conference.
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