Kemp, DeSantis campaign push back on Trump's Covid ‘tyrants’ comments

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, one of Donald Trump’s favorite punching bags, hit back at the former president Saturday for what he sees as a misrepresentation of his record on Covid-19-related health policies.

“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 wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, where he responded to a video of Trump calling people “sick” for being “Covid tyrants” that want to take away rights and freedoms.

“While he listened to [Anthony] Fauci & parroted media talking points, I listened to hardworking Georgians. He may not remember, but I sure as hell do,” he added.

At a rally in South Dakota on Friday night, Trump praised Gov. Kristi Noem, who was among a number of governors who did not impose statewide stay-at-home orders during the pandemic.

“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.”

After local, state and federal coronavirus measures began shutting down American public life in March 2020, Kemp moved to reopen some businesses and restaurants about a month later in April. Trump said he “strongly” disagreed with the governor’s decision at the time.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who conservatives often praise for his rejection of public health authorities' guidance during the pandemic, moved to reopen Florida at the beginning of May.

"@BrianKempGA and @RonDeSantis were right and Donald Trump was wrong,” James Uthmeier, DeSantis’ campaign manager, wrote on X in response to the original video.

A current uptick of Covid-19 cases has led to a resurgence in pushback against potential further mask mandates, including a GOP-led effort in the Senate to block federal mandates. Many Americans have moved on from previously widespread pandemic precautions, and even President Joe Biden has displayed resistance to masking after the first lady recently tested positive.

Kemp, whose relationship with Trump turned fraught after the former president started making false claims about election fraud in the state, won reelection by around 7.5 percentage points.