Former President Donald Trump shared a video on Truth Social showing his top 2024 rival Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seeming to change the pronunciation of his name over time.
Mr Trump shared a post from Twitter user Johnny Maga, who asked on 16 March: “Who changes the pronunciation of their own last name in their 40s? Is there anything genuine about this guy?”
In the video, Mr DeSantis introduces himself in a number of clips in which he puts emphasis on different parts of his name on various occasions – Dee-Santis or Deh-Santis.
Mr DeSantis appears to have changed how he says his name since his first campaign for congress in 2012, when he pronounced it Dee-Santis, according to New York Magazine’s Intelligencer.
Things began to change in 2016, when the future governor said Dee-Santis at his CPAC speech in March of that year, but in November, he appears in a video posted by the House Oversight Committee, saying Deh-Santis.
The pronunciation of Mr DeSantis’s name was the subject of two local news stories when he ran for governor in 2018, when he was saying Dee-Santis, but his wife Casey appeared in campaign ads saying Deh-Santis.
TheTampa Bay Times reported on 20 September 2018 that Mr DeSantis’s high school nickname was “Dee” and that he liked that pronunciation better regardless of his spouse’s preference.
“It had become the source of debate in our newsroom,” Times reporter Adam Smith wrote at the time.
Campaign Communications Director Stephen Lawson told The Times that “it’s also been a little controversial for us on the campaign trail. He uses Dee-Santis”.
“But Casey Dee-Santis, seems to use Deh-Santis, right?” the paper pressed.
After a pause, Mr Lawson said, “yes,” adding “he prefers Dee-Santis.”
The Times asked if this was a “giant source of great friction between Mr Dee-Santis and Mrs Deh-Santis”.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Mr Lawson said.
Just a few days later, on 24 September 2018, the local TV station News4Jax reported that the campaign didn’t feel it was important enough of an issue to correct anyone.
The local outlet added that a source present at the couple’s wedding said that it was pronounced Deh-Santis that day.
But a campaign spokesperson later told News4Jax in an email that it’s pronounced with a “Hard D: DeeSantis. Just the way he pronounces in the ads”.
The director of the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab, Dr Michael Binder, told the TV station at the time that has never seen a name change so late in a campaign.
“I’ve seen it earlier in people’s campaigns and careers and things of that nature, but never six months out from a gubernatorial election when you’ve already won the statewide primary,” he said.
“I’ve called up and called him Deh-Santis for several years now. I don’t know what’s happening. This is a little strange, to be honest,” he added. “Maybe it’s a move to make him more, you know, more friendly? More easygoing?”
When Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady swore in Mr DeSantis as governor in January 2019, he asked him to repeat, “I, Ron Deh-Santis, do solemnly swear,” and he repeated that version of his name.
After becoming governor, he used “Dee-Santis” again. Video messages regarding his administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in June, July, and December 2020, as well as January 2021, show him using “Dee-Santis,” according to the Intelligencer.
But when he was sworn in for his second term as governor in January of this year, Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz said, “Please repeat after me: I, Ron Dee-Santis,” but the governor chose to reply with “I, Ron Deh-Santis”.
In another issue over Mr DeSantis’ pronunciation of words, Charles Finch, an author, critic, and former Yale classmate of Mr DeSantis, wrote in his pandemic memoir What Just Happened: Notes on a Long Year that a friend had said that Mr DeSantis, who was called “D” at the time, would tell those he took on dates that he liked Thai food, but he would pronounce it “thigh” food.
Mr Finch added that if they corrected him, he would make an excuse to leave the date.
“He didn’t want a girlfriend who corrected him,” he wrote.