Gavin Newsom slams Ron DeSantis as ‘functionally authoritarian’

September 10, 2023 11:08 AM

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) took aim at Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) on Sunday, calling him “fundamentally authoritarian” but stating he believes former President Donald Trump is a greater threat to democracy.

“I worry about democracy,” Newsom said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I worry about the ‘fetishness’ for autocracy that we’re seeing not just from Trump, but around the world, and notably across this country.”


WATCH: Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) tells @chucktodd that he thinks Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) is “functionally authoritarian,” but he’s more worried about former President Trump.@GavinNewsom: “I think the vengeance in Donald Trump’s heart right now is more of a threat.”

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) September 10, 2023

“I’ve made the point about DeSantis that I think he’s functionally authoritarian. I’m worried more, in many respects, about Trumpism, which transcends well beyond his term and time in tenure.”

Newsom, who has strongly criticized Trump during his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, among other policies the former president had for the nation, said he is “concerned about democracy fundamentally.”

“I think the vengeance in Donald Trump’s heart right now is more of a threat,” Newsom said, adding that he’s “not going to wallow in it” and focus on President Joe Biden’s reelection.

When asked about his communications and relationship with Trump, Newsom pointed to the time the pair spent together in 2018, visiting the devastation in Paradise and Southern California caused by the state’s massive wildfires.

“Many support him,” Newsom said on Trump. “I’m not going to oppose someone just to oppose them — I don’t come into a relationship with closed fists, but an open hand. I call balls and strikes, and few people were more aggressive at calling balls and strikes against Donald Trump. I called California the most un-Trump state in America, and I hold to that.”

“And I hold to that at the same time, we work together in terms of emergency preparedness and response, in terms of recovery on issues related to COVID,” Newsom continued.

Newsom attacked DeSantis for refusing to work with the Biden administration during emergencies.

“I find it a stark contrast that DeSantis was completely AWOL from spending any time with Joe Biden, which just to me is political malpractice,” Newsom said.

Sitting on opposite ends of the political aisle, the California Democrat and Florida Republican are expected to debate each other, with Newsom officially agreeing to the debate on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox in June 2023.

The California governor has long dismissed speculation that he’d make a bid for the 2024 Democratic nomination if Biden decides not to run and has taken on a larger role in the president’s campaigning to help keep his place in the White House.


“I think the Vice President is naturally one lined up, and the filing deadlines are quickly coming to pass,” Newsom said, saying he has respect for the role falling to Vice President Kamala Harris if Biden is no longer in office and adding he wouldn’t run against her. “And I think we need to move past this notion that he’s not going to run. President Biden is going to run and looking forward to getting reelected.”

Pointing to his efforts with the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic movements, Newsom said it’s time to “make the case” to donors who are less optimistic about another Biden term.