Donald Trump told radio host Hugh Hewitt that Ron DeSantis cried and begged for the endorsement that launched the Florida governor to political stardom in 2018.
The claim is just the latest attack from Trump against the man widely seen as his most formidable primary threat in 2024.
Trump took all of the credit for DeSantis' victory in the Republican primary against then-Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and later, a narrow win over "crackhead" Andrew Gillum in the general election.
According to Trump, DeSantis was "dead" in the polls against Putnam and came groveling for help.
"He said, 'if you endorse me, I’ll win.' And there were tears coming down from his eyes," Trump said.
Trump has made it clear with increasingly personal attacks that he believes DeSantis owes him a debt for the endorsement, saying it would be "disloyal" if DeSantis were to run in 2024.
Trump has also said DeSantis is trying to "rewrite history" on his response to the COVID pandemic, which proved immensely popular with conservatives.
The governor's vaccine skepticism and resistance to lockdowns have made him a favorite with Republican voters, but Trump says the story DeSantis and his backers have been telling is incomplete.
“The real Ron is a RINO GLOBALIST, who closed quickly down Florida and even its beaches,” Trump said in a post on Truth Social. "Loved the Vaccines and wasted big money on ‘Testing.’ How quickly people forget!”
For now, Trump remains the only Republican candidate officially running for president, although former Trump administration officials Nikki Haley, Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo have all given strong signals they intend to jump in.
As for DeSantis, the governor has appeared to mostly avoid responding to Trump's barbs -- but the governor is said to be exploring a White House campaign, and his soaring rhetoric shows clear ambition.
DeSantis is also receiving lots of encouragement lately from conservative pundits who have declared him the GOP's future, especially after he thundered to re-election last year even as the Republican party underperformed.
The governor bragged about his record -- and appeared to knock Trump's -- when asked for a response to some of Trump's comments Tuesday.
"In my case," he emphasized, "not only did we win reelection, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida."