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Former President Donald Trump recently said he would oppose any new COVID restrictions. However, Republican Governors Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp are questioning Trump's record on draconian lockdowns and mask mandates during the COVID pandemic.
On Aug. 30, Trump released a video about the "sudden fearmongering" of new COVID variants.
"The left-wing lunatics are trying very hard to bring back COVID lockdowns and mandates with all of their sudden fearmongering about the new variants that are coming. Gee whiz. You know what else is coming? An election," Trump began.
Trump claimed it is a strategy to "justify more lockdowns, more censorship, more illegal drop boxes, more mail-in ballots, and trillions of dollars in payoffs to their political allies heading into the 2024 election."
Trump continued, "But to every COVID tyrant who wants to take away our freedom, hear these words: We will not comply, so don’t even think about it."
The former president added, "We will not shut down our schools. We will not accept your lockdowns. We will not abide by your mask mandates, and we will not tolerate your vaccine mandates."
Trump promised to cut federal funding to any entity that imposes mask or vaccine mandates.
Kemp asserted that Trump was in favor of lockdowns during the pandemic when he was president, and was in lockstep with Dr. Anthony Fauci.
"The fact is former president Trump led the opposition to my decision to reopen Georgia – the first state in the country to do so," Kemp declared on Saturday. "While he listened to Fauci and parroted media talking points, I listened to hardworking Georgians. He may not remember, but I sure as hell do."
James Uthmeier, presidential campaign manager and longtime chief of staff of DeSantis, stood with Kemp by saying, "Brian Kemp and Ron DeSantis were right and Donald Trump was wrong."
Georgia and Florida were two of the first states to begin reopening their economies. Kemp lifted COVID restrictions on businesses on April 27, 2020. DeSantis did the same on May 4, 2020. DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order on April 1, 2020, and Kemp instituted a shelter-in-place order the next day.
In January 2021, the Trump administration pressured DeSantis to reinstate mask mandates and social distancing in Florida, according to a letter that surfaced last week.
The Washington Examiner reported, "Trump's White House Coronavirus Task Force warned DeSantis's administration that 'aggressive mitigation must be used,' including 'uniform implementation' of 2-3-ply well-fitting masks and 'strict physical distancing.'"
The letter from Trump's White House Coronavirus Task Force also called for Florida residents to avoid family gatherings.
DeSantis said on Thursday, "For months, May 2020, Summer 2020, Fall 2020, even January of 2021, I was getting hit by the White House Task Force under Trump. This wasn’t even Biden. This was Trump. … Weeks before they left office, they were sending us missives to Florida, saying, 'Impose mask mandates, and close bars and restaurants and businesses.'"
In May, Gov. DeSantis signed four bills into law that bar vaccine passports, ban mask mandates, prohibit businesses and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination for services, prohibit employers from requiring employees to be vaccinated for employment, ban gain-of-function research, and requires any World Health Organization policy to be approved by the state before going into effect in Florida.
There is no love lost between Trump and Kemp.
Trump endorsed David Perdue in the GOP gubernatorial primary in Georgia in 2022. Kemp thumped Perdue in the primary by overwhelmingly garnering nearly 74% of Republican votes.
Trump also seemingly flirted with endorsing Kemp's Democrat challenger – far-left, two-time loser Stacey Abrams – before the last gubernatorial election in Georgia.
In 2021, Trump said of Abrams during a rally in Georgia, "Of course, having her I think might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know the truth. Might very well be better."
Abrams would go on to lose to Kemp in the 2022 gubernatorial election in Georgia. Abrams also lost to Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial race.
Abrams was an election denier following her loss to Kemp, and claimed without clear evidence that "access to the election was flawed, and I refuse to concede a system that permits citizens to be denied access; that is very different than someone claiming a fraudulent outcome."
Abrams also said after losing the election:
But to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in the state, boldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling. So let’s be clear. This is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that. But my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy.
Trump also challenged the election results from Georgia during the 2020 presidential election.
Last month, Trump's indictment in Georgia stated:
Defendant Donald John Trump lost the United States presidential election held on November 3, 2020. One of the states he lost was Georgia. Trump and the other Defendants charged in this Indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump. That conspiracy contained a common plan and purpose to commit two or more acts of racketeering activity in Fulton County, Georgia, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, and in other states.
One Republican governor is supporting Trump. On Friday, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem endorsed Trump at a rally in Rapid City.
"He is the leader, the father that our country needs. He has my full and complete endorsement for president of the United States of America," Noem said. "I will do everything I can to help him win and save this country.”
During the rally, Trump took a veiled shot at other governors without naming names.
“Unlike other governors, she never locked down South Dakota,” Trump said. “They all say, ‘Oh, I kept it open, I kept it open.’ They didn’t keep it open."
South Dakota did not shut down all businesses during the pandemic. However, Noem issued an executive order in April 2020 ordering all people with an underlying medical vulnerability and those 65 and older in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties to stay home.
According to the Argus Leader, "Noem is also correct that she never formally ordered the closure of any businesses. But following an outbreak at the Smithfield meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls in April, she joined Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken in using their offices to apply pressure on the company to shut down. Within days, the plant executives announced it was shutting down for two weeks."
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Paul Sacca is a staff writer for Blaze News.