Politics Donald Trump Is Reportedly Workshopping Nicknames Like 'Meatball Ron' for Ron DeSantis The former president denied that is he is spending "large amounts of my time coming up with a good 'nickname'" for DeSantis By Virginia Chamlee Virginia Chamlee Twitter Virginia Chamlee is a Politics Writer at PEOPLE. She has been working at PEOPLE for three years. Her work has previously appeared in The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Eater, and other outlets. People Editorial Guidelines Published on February 14, 2023 04:37 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Donald Trump, noted lover of political nicknames, has reportedly landed on a new moniker for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: "Meatball Ron." A new report from The New York Times claims that the former president has privately been using the name (and a few others) to refer to the governor, who is widely rumored to be mulling a campaign for the presidency, which would pit him directly against Trump in 2024. Per the Times, Trump has been describing the governor "as 'Meatball Ron,' an apparent dig at his appearance, or 'Shutdown Ron,' a reference to restrictions the governor put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic." Trump Lashes Out at Ron DeSantis Amid Rumors of a 2024 Campaign: 'It's Always About Loyalty' Trump disputed the report on his social media site Truth Social, writing on Tuesday morning that coming up with nicknames for DeSantis is "a very unimportant subject to me," but in the same post, using his original nickname for the Florida governor: "Ron DeSanctimonious." "All of the Fake News is reporting that I spend large amounts of my time coming up with a good 'nickname' for Ron DeSanctimonious, who is obviously going to give the presidential 'thing' a shot," Trump wrote. "They are all 100% wrong, I don't even think about it — A very unimportant subject to me!!!" The former president has used the nickname "Ron DeSanctimonious" before, at a rally and in other posts on social media. Donald Trump. Joe Raedle/Getty Images Since news of DeSantis' potential plans to run against him, Trump has lashed out at his former ally, saying he is disloyal and suggesting, without evidence, that the now-governor once attended high school parties when he was a teacher in his early 20s. DeSantis has largely stayed out of the fray, demurring when asked about his plans for higher office or when pressed on Trump's recent provocations. "I spend my time delivering results for the people of Florida and fighting against Joe Biden," DeSantis said, when asked about Trump's allegations about his behavior as a teacher. "That's how I spend my time. I don't spend my time trying to smear other Republicans." Trump Claims Ron DeSantis 'Begged Him' for Gubernatorial Endorsement: 'Tears Coming Down from His Eyes' Ron DeSantis. Tristan Wheelock/Bloomberg via Getty As Republican strategist Liam Donovan told the Times, history has shown that facing Trump head-on is a risky move, but one that must eventually be confronted if DeSantis wants to earn the Republican nomination in 2024. "No Republican has ever emerged from an exchange with Donald Trump looking stronger, so the natural tendency is to deflect his attacks and avoid confrontation," Donovan told the outlet. "The question is what happens when DeSantis finds himself on a debate stage opposite Trump, and GOP voters want to see whether they are getting what they were promised," he added. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer. Trump undoubtedly has had an impact on DeSantis' early political career, with his endorsement helping the now-governor win the 2018 Republican primary against the long-held favorite for the role, former Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam. But the former president has since suggested that early endorsement should have led to more "loyalty" from 44-year-old DeSantis. Following a recent campaign event in South Carolina, Trump told the Associated Press that it would be "a great act of disloyalty" if the governor were to run against him in the Republican primary. "If he runs, that's fine. I'm way up in the polls," Trump, who announced his 2024 campaign in November, told AP. "He's going to have to do what he wants to do, but he may run. I do think it would be a great act of disloyalty because, you know, I got him in. He had no chance. His political life was over." Trump has made similar comments to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who he told in a recent interview: "Ron DeSantis got elected because of me. You remember he had nothing."