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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis listens during a May 9, 2023, press conference in Miami. (AP) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis listens during a May 9, 2023, press conference in Miami. (AP)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis listens during a May 9, 2023, press conference in Miami. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman May 24, 2023

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is diving into a battle with his former ally Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president selling himself as a young leader who can battle against "woke" policies about race and gender and stem the flow of illegal immigration — without Trump’s baggage.

DeSantis’ argument is that the U.S. should be more like Florida and follow his policies that emphasize cracking down on illegal immigration, weeding out policies that prioritize diversity, and limiting gender-affirming care for transgender people.

PolitiFact has fact-checked 43 statements by DeSantis stretching back to his tenure as a U.S. representative and his gubernatorial campaigns. Slightly more than half of the statements we checked fall on the false side of our Truth-O-Meter. 

PolitiFact is fact-checking all of the major candidates for president, including Trump and President Joe Biden. If you spot a claim you think we should fact-check, email [email protected].

Here’s a look at some of our recent fact-checks of DeSantis.

Hitting back at Trump

"Donald Trump himself wrote a book where he was talking about the need to increase the age of eligibility for Social Security to 70."

DeSantis and Trump have vowed to protect Social Security while accusing each other of wanting to cut the program for older Americans. Trump allies point to DeSantis’ votes to raise the retirement age as a member of Congress, though he no longer holds that view.

DeSantis went back even further to Trump’s 2000 book "The America We Deserve," which was published as he briefly considered a bid for president as a Reform Party candidate. 

On raising the retirement age, Trump wrote: "We can also raise the age for receipt of full Social Security benefits to seventy." Trump wrote that the age limit "makes sense for people now under forty."

DeSantis left out details about how Trump’s old proposal would work and that this hasn’t been Trump’s position for years. We rated this statement Mostly True

DeSantis on immigration

When migrants arrived on Martha’s Vineyard, "they called out the National Guard and deported them within 24 hours."

We rated this statement False

In September, DeSantis orchestrated flying migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. Within days, approximately 50 migrants were moved to a Cape Cod military base. The legal definition of deportation is when federal immigration authorities remove people from the country, and that’s not what happened with the people on Martha’s Vineyard. 

DeSantis made this claim in his April 6 speech at Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian school in Michigan. In subsequent speeches in April, DeSantis tweaked this talking point by skipping the word "deportation." 

Says the Biden administration’s Unaccompanied Alien Children process has "no vetting, no transparency."

We rated this claim from a February news conference Mostly False. Long before Biden’s presidency, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 established a program to address a growing number of migrant children arriving in the U.S. without a parent or legal guardian.  

Young people who enter federal custody undergo security screening by immigration officials. The Office of Refugee Resettlement reviews the background and biographical information of children in its custody. It also conducts a criminal check on all potential sponsors to ensure they’re not a threat to the minor’s safety. 

DeSantis on Florida’s economy

Florida has "the second lowest tax burden per capita in the United States."

We rated this statement from an April Republican Party event in Ohio Mostly True

There are different ways to calculate a state’s tax burden., but whatever the method, Florida ranks relatively low for its tax burden — as low as second from the bottom and as high as 11th from the bottom.  Although its overall taxation rate is low, the burden falls more heavily on lower-income residents. 

DeSantis on LGBTQ+ issues

"They are literally chopping off the private parts of young kids."

DeSantis said this as he announced the suspension of Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, who signed a pledge against the criminalization of gender-affirming health care.

DeSantis' office provided two examples of teenagers who received transition-related surgeries. The Florida Department of Health would define both cases as involving adolescents, and experts say the procedures are rare for minors and aren't typically recommended. There are no examples we could find, or that the governor's office provided, of transition-related surgeries for people younger than 14. 

Medical transitioning is not recommended for prepubescent children, as DeSantis suggested. We rated his claim Mostly False

Read this story in Spanish.

RELATED: What does it mean to be ‘woke’?

RELATED: ​​Fact-checking Ron DeSantis' book: What 'The Courage to Be Free' glosses over about his record

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