DeSantis calls out Trump's abortion comment as 'mistake': 'He's a different candidate' than in 2016

"Pro-life voters would think that he's wrong," the governor said of his rival.

ByTommy Brooksbank, Lindsey Griswold, Jon Schlosberg, Eric Ortega, Hannah Demissie, and Will McDuffie ABCNews logo
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
DeSantis calls out Trump's abortion comment as 'mistake'
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized Donald Trump for calling Florida's six-week abortion ban "terrible."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, before unveiling his new energy plan in Midland, Texas, criticized Donald Trump for calling Florida's six-week abortion ban "terrible," with DeSantis in a new interview accusing his 2024 Republican rival of being "a different candidate today than he was" in 2016.

"He claimed to be pro-life. He spoke at the March for Life and was waxing eloquently about how everybody counts," DeSantis told ABC News Live Prime anchor Linsey Davis in Texas.

"For him to then attack people like Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, all these other states, I thought that was a big mistake," DeSantis said.

Trump, in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, went after DeSantis for signing the six-week abortion ban in Florida earlier this year.

"What he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake," Trump said. Instead, he said, he would push for a compromise on the issue but did not specify a cutoff date on a ban he would prefer.

DeSantis told Davis that he thinks anti-abortion voters -- whom he and Trump are both seeking to woo, with DeSantis still trailing front-runner Trump by double-digits in the polls -- will agree with sharper restrictions.

More broadly, DeSantis argued that Trump's rhetoric shows the former president is softening his stances.

"I think he's taking positions that I think are different from what he took in 2015 when he first came onto the scene. And I do think he's a different candidate today than he was back then. And I think the one back then was probably closer to where Republican voters want to be than the latest iteration," he said.

Asked if he believes Trump is really opposed to abortion, DeSantis said, "Well, you tell me."

"I think that if you have something where you have a baby that has a detectable heartbeat, if you're pro-life, you would want to say that there should be protections there," he said. "And if he's saying, 'That's a terrible thing' -- I know most pro-life voters would think that he's wrong."

Abortion bans at six weeks are typically when cardiac activity is detected in fetuses.

Trump's comments have sparked backlash from other anti-abortion leaders in the Republican Party, including Kim Reynolds, the governor of Iowa, the state that votes first in the race for the GOP nomination.

A Trump campaign spokesman said in a statement, in part: "President Trump's unmatched record speaks for itself."

The spokesman singled out Trump's role in ending the abortion protections of Roe v. Wade, through his Supreme Court appointees, and added that "there has been no bigger advocate for the movement than President Trump."

ABC News' Lalee Ibssa and Soo Rin Kim contributed to this report.