The truth behind the bizarre Ron DeSantis ‘pudding fingers’ claim seized on by Trump

As Ron DeSantis announces his presidential campaign, his main rival Donald Trump has seized on the rumour that the Florida Governor has been spotted eating pudding with his bare hands.

This is the bizarre story behind the saga that’s now been turned into a campaign insult in the burgeoning fight between the ex-president and his former ally.

Last month, an ad paid for by the Make America Great Again Inc PAC launched a direct attack on Mr DeSantis by saying he has “dirty fingers” while featuring images of a man eating chocolate pudding with his fingers.

“Ron DeSantis loves sticking his fingers where they don’t belong,” the advertisement says.

Throughout the video, headlines from publications criticising Mr DeSantis appear over the images of the man eating pudding. The advertisement accuses Mr DeSantis of cutting Medicare, Social Security, and raising the retirement age.

“Tell Ron DeSantis to keep his pudding fingers off his money,” the advertisement says. “And oh, somebody get this man a spoon.”

The “pudding fingers” reference originates in a rumour that started from a report from The Daily Beast.

Through Mr Trump did not directly “authorise” the advertisement, it was created by a Political Action Committee (PAC) aligned with his politics, according to Open Secrets.

In March, Mr DeSantis chose not to outright deny that he ate chocolate pudding with three fingers on a private flight in 2019. The Daily Beast noted that Mr DeSantis sometimes struggles to “read the room”.

“I don’t remember ever doing that,” the governor told Piers Morgan in an interview on Fox Nation.

“Maybe when I was a kid, but it’s interesting there’s a lot of people who when they go at you, sometimes they have really good ammunition like, ‘You’re a crook, you did this, you did that,’” he added. “For me, they’re talking about pudding, and I’m like, ‘Is that really the best you’ve got? OK, bring it on!’”

“It’s quite interesting that the governor didn’t flat out deny eating pudding with three fingers,” an ex-staffer for Mr DeSantis told The Daily Beast earlier this year.

The Florida governor can often be found in a corner by himself at fundraisers or in other exclusive venues, eschewing the traditional political glad-handing, according to the report.

This may become an issue as most candidates in the early primary states in any presidential cycle rely on retail politics.

Mr DeSantis’s supposed worries about meeting with voters and the unplanned interactions that may entail have prompted early primary state organisers to attempt to lay the groundwork to make their events easier for the governor to handle, according to The Daily Beast.

But they reportedly rarely know what the governor wants, because, as one longtime event host in an early primary state told The Daily Beast, he has “easily the least responsive campaign I’ve ever dealt with”.

“We invite, invite, invite, ping, ping, ping. We don’t hear anything,” the host added.

When he was in Iowa, it was reported that Mr DeSantis’s team used bike racks to create space between him and attendees.

Ron DeSantis shares a joke with voters during an Iowa GOP reception in Cedar Rapids (Getty Images)
Ron DeSantis shares a joke with voters during an Iowa GOP reception in Cedar Rapids (Getty Images)

The New York Times wrote that the governor was “awkward, but still winning the crowd” during his visit to the state.

A Republican strategist told The Daily Beast that Mr DeSantis’ early campaign strategy indicated a “Tallahassee basement strategy, mirroring that of Biden in 2020, where he hides from press and real voters”.

Mr Biden spent large parts of the 2020 campaign at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Multiple former staffers have said that nearly everything the governor does is scripted.

Stories of the governor eating during meetings have also surfaced.

“He would sit in meetings and eat in front of people, always like a starving animal who has never eaten before… getting s*** everywhere,” one ex-staffer told The Daily Beast.

This is where the pudding enters the fray.

Two people told The Daily Beast that Mr DeSantis enjoyed a chocolate pudding by eating it with three of his fingers during a March 2019 private flight from Tallahassee to Washington, DC.