Biden meets with DeSantis during Florida trip to survey Hurricane Ian damage

Author: Kathryn Watson / CBS
Published: Updated:
Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Joe Biden meet after the deadly Surfside condo collapse. Credit: CBS

On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Biden emphasized their “cooperation” β€” despite their political differences β€” as the president visited Fort Myers, which was hard hit by Hurricane Ian last week.

DeSantis thanked Biden for visiting the state and for his responsiveness and said he’s probably never seen better coordination among state, local and federal governments. DeSantis said Florida has been “very fortunate” to have good coordination with the White House and Federal Emergency Management Agency throughout the ongoing crisis. In turn, Biden, in turn, thanked DeSantis for his hospitality and noted the cooperation he and DeSantis had since before the storm hit.

“Today, we have one job and only one job, and that’s to make sure the people of Florida get everything that they need to fully, thoroughly recover,” Biden said. “… This is the United States of America, and I emphasize, united.”

The president also commended DeSantis, telling reporters that the governor has done a “good job” despite their “different political philosophies.”

“What the governor’s done is pretty remarkable,” Biden said.

Upon landing in Fort Myers, Florida, early Wednesday afternoon, the president and first lady Jill Biden took an aerial tour to understand the storm’s devastation better. The Bidens were then greeted by DeSantis and Florida’s first lady, Casey DeSantis, at a wharf littered with debris. The president also shook hands with GOP Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

Together, the president, governor and first ladies met with local officials and residents whose lives were upended by the hurricane.

CBS News has confirmed at least 108 people died due to the storm β€” 104 in Florida and another 4 in North Carolina. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president and first lady will “reaffirm” the president’s commitment to Florida.

“The president will meet with small business owners and local residents impacted by Hurricane Ian and thank the federal, state and local officials working around the clock to provide life-saving assistance, restore power, distribute food and water, remove debris and begin rebuilding efforts,” Jean-Pierre said Tuesday. “Governor DeSantis, the FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell and other state and local officials will also provide the president with an operational briefing on the current response and recovery efforts.”

Last week, ahead of the storm, Biden said he’d already spoken with DeSantis several times about the massive storm, and dismissed any suggestion that their political differences would impact their cooperation in helping the people of Florida. Biden said DeSantis had complimented him on the federal response to the storm.

“This is not about whether or β€” anything having to do with our disagreements politically,” Biden said on Thursday. “This is about saving people’s lives, homes, and businesses. That’s what this is about. And so, I’ve been β€” I’ve talked to him four, five times already. And it’s not a matter of my disagreements with him on other items.”

On Monday, the president and first lady visited Puerto Rico, which is reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Fiona last month, while still rebuilding from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“You have had to bear so much and more than need be, and you haven’t gotten the help in a timely way,” Biden lamented in his speech Monday. “And this latest storm dealt a serious blow to all, all the hard work that has been done since Maria.”

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