Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appeared to lose his temper on Thursday when a reporter asked him why he did not take questions from the audience at a speaking event in Laconia, N.H., sarcastically asking the reporter twice if he was blind.
DeSantis, a Republican who announced his bid for the White House last week, delivered a nearly hourlong speech before about 100 people at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
After his remarks, DeSantis mingled with voters for several minutes as he moved through the audience. As he stopped for a picture with a supporter, Steve Peoples of the Associated Press asked him why attendees weren’t given the opportunity to ask him questions in front of the audience.
“People are coming up to me, talking to me, what are you talking about? ... Are you blind?” he said to Peoples, according to a video of the exchange posted by NBC News reporter Jonathan Allen. “Are you blind? People are coming up to me, talking to me [about] whatever they want to talk to me about.”
I just asked DeSantis why he hasn't taken any questions from voters so far:— Steve Peoples (@sppeoples) June 1, 2023
“People are coming up to me, talking to me. What are you talking about? Are you blind? Are you blind? People are coming up to me, talking to me whatever they want to talk to me about.”
After declining to take audience questions after his first New Hampshire campaign event today, Ron DeSantis lashed out at a reporter for asking him about it while he was chatting with members of the crowd individually.— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) June 1, 2023
Here’s the video, via @NBCNews —> pic.twitter.com/Z2WtLy0JNj
It is common for presidential hopefuls to take questions from voters after they finish a stump speech in New Hampshire, which has long held the nation’s first presidential primary. Donald Trump notably broke away from that tradition during his 2016 campaign, favoring large-scale rallies over the smaller meetings candidates typically have with Granite State voters.
Trump, who is also running for president in 2024, appeared in Iowa Thursday and seemed to be jabbing at DeSantis when he told about 200 members of a conservative club that they could ask him questions.
“A lot of politicians don’t take questions. They give a speech,” Trump said to an audience in Des Moines.
Trump and DeSantis, former political allies turned rivals in the race for the Republican nomination, used their visits to early voting states to pitch themselves as the best option for conservative voters, both promising to unravel President Biden’s policies. The Democrat is seeking reelection for a second term in the White House.
During his remarks in Laconia, DeSantis criticized Biden for his support of removing New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status by having the state hold its Democratic primary on the same day as Nevada in an effort to empower Black and other minority voters.
“I’m glad Republicans are holding the line and committed to New Hampshire,” DeSantis said.
He also appealed to the crowd with a remark about New Hampshire, like Florida, not having an income tax.
“You’ve got this one little outpost in New England that’s holding the line,” he said.
It was DeSantis’ first visit to New Hampshire since announcing his presidential bid May 24. He made a trip to the state in May and stopped by the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, another popular destination for presidential candidates.
DeSantis also didn’t take audience questions over two days in Iowa but mingled with supporters in the crowd, according to the Associated Press.
The decision not to hold a Q&A with the audience disappointed some Republican voters who attended DeSantis’s event in Laconia. Alan Glassman, treasurer of the state GOP, told the AP that he and his wife decided to skip the governor’s later events in New Hampshire Thursday because he was unlikely to take unscripted questions.
“This is New Hampshire. The reality here is the vast majority of political people here in New Hampshire, we do our due diligence. We want to know where these people stand. And a lot of that is hearing from them and then asking them questions,” Glassman said.
“I’m just hoping that next time the governor does show up here, he’ll actually be doing some more interaction with the people,” Glassman said.
DeSantis’ visit to New Hampshire included stops in Rochester, Salem, and Manchester. His campaign is expected to head to South Carolina, another state with a critically timed primary election, to campaign on Friday.
US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, and biotech entrepreneur and “anti-woke” activist Vivek Ramaswamy are also in the race for the Republican nomination.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.