One more way Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has tried to follow in Donald Trump’s footsteps is as a politician who uses religion—evangelical Christianity in particular—as a partisan cudgel, while not showing much if any personal religious identity. DeSantis does a better job of faking it because he appears devoted to his first and only wife rather than having paid off any porn stars. But NBC News has dug into DeSantis’ religion talk, and it seems just as cold and transactional at its heart as Trump’s.
The best part is the story of the Bible DeSantis was sworn in on when he was inaugurated as governor of Florida:
Many elected officials choose to be sworn into office on a religious text with some sort of personal meaning. But for DeSantis, this moment was preceded by scrambling by campaign and inauguration staffers caught off-guard when DeSantis, who is Catholic, told them his family did not own a Bible and he did not care whether he used one with historical significance, five former aides said.
Each of the four other people sworn into office that day — Florida’s three Cabinet members and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez — had religious texts that had personal significance, inauguration records show.
Staff members for DeSantis had to buy a Bible for $21.74 on Amazon and have it shipped to the Republican Party of Florida headquarters less than a week before his inauguration, according to a receipt of the transaction shared with NBC News.
DeSantis’ current campaign refused to answer NBC’s specific questions, saying only that the report was “a pathetic lie worthy only of a tabloid gossip rag.” But there’s a literal receipt.
As a politician being interviewed for audiences that care about things like faith, DeSantis will say things like his home “is a Christ-centered household” or faith is the “foundation of my life.” But in his spontaneous public statements and in his own book, he rarely talks about faith or makes the kind of religious references that people for whom faith is the foundation of their lives usually make.
And when he does go to specific Christian references, they’re often about as natural and unforced as his smile, like his 2022 campaign video in which the narrator said, “And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said: ‘I need a protector.’ So God made a fighter.” It’s a reference to the Bible and to God, but mostly it’s narcissism to a degree that even many narcissists would know was a bad look.
Here’s the thing: There is nothing wrong with not being very religious. There is nothing wrong with being a politician who’s not very religious. On the contrary, it should be normalized. But. Big, big but: DeSantis is constantly playing to conservative Christians for partisan advantage. He puts a light veneer of religion over the bigotry he’s trying to sell. That’s DeSantis all around. With the exception of his family, who he seems to love, everything comes across as a mean, hard political calculation for him. And the fact that we can see it—that he didn’t think ahead and have a “family Bible,” however fake, at the ready for his inauguration, that his smile appears to controlled by a crew of amateur puppeteers—is one of the reasons DeSantis’ presidential bid is fizzling so badly.
There has been a ton of coverage in recent weeks over a streak of poor 2024 polling for Democrats and Target Smart’s Tom Bonier joins us to help us separate the wheat from the chaff. We talk about what to take from these polls and how to balance them against the much more positive election results we’ve seen this year. We also discuss how early voting data continues to evolve and how Sen. Sherrod Brown’s campaign will use Ohio’s recent abortion and marijuana referendums to find new persuadable voters next year.