Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) is a lot of things to a lot of people.
To Democrats, he’s been the draconian Florida governor, removing Democratic officials by executive order and publicly warring with Disney—first on culture war issues, then with the media conglomerate’s presence in his state—though he has expressed he’d like to move on after angering Disney into a lawsuit.
To Republicans sizing up the 2024 presidential field, he’s one of an unappealing group of alternatives to former President Donald Trump who—as of August 2023—was the lone candidate other than Trump polling above single digits, though not by much. FiveThirtyEight had him at 14 percent to Trump’s 53—hardly the stuff of challengers.
But to many on the internet, just happy to have a laugh at a public figure’s expense, DeSantis is notorious for showing up to a post-hurricane photo op wearing clunky white boots that didn’t quite project a Governor In Charge. The look was more, well, Green M&M.
When did Ron Desantis wear white boots out in public?
DeSantis, as a hopeful Republican presidential candidate as well as governor of Florida, had been publicly spatting with President Joe Biden in the weeks leading up to the Category 5 Hurricane Ian ravaging Florida and neighboring states in September 2022.
With DeSantis’s state needing federal assistance money, and with both leaders wanting to project a sense of rising above, they “set politics aside to deal with Hurricane Ian,” as Politico characterized it in an article on the day of Ian’s landfall.
DeSantis appeared around Fort Myers, Fla. on Oct. 2 at a photo op to help tell the story of hurricane relief efforts, but his fateful choice in footwear that day told a different story. An article initially appearing in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and then on several other sites, spread word of Ron DeSantis’ white boots.
“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was heavily criticized yesterday for showing up in the Fort Myers Beach area wearing campaign gear,” it began, “stopping Hurricane Ian relief efforts for a photo-op, and then calling residents liars after they expressed frustration with the DeSantis-induced recovery delays.”
But then Creative Loafing went into online dunking mode, saying, “But there also appears to be quite a bit of discussion about Ron’s tall, impeccably clean, white boots.
While many people have famously worn white boots in the past, like shrimp boat captains, Lt. Dangle in Reno 911, and of course, Nancy Sinatra, it was certainly surprising to see the Republican governor surveying hurricane damage in what appeared to be the Green M&M’s boots.
That article included some of the more popular tweets poking fun at the white boots, including one saying DeSantis looked “like a 5-year-old made a governor at Build-A-Bear — and forgot the heart.”
The photo of DeSantis came courtesy of the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
How did Ron Desantis’ white boots get so viral?
The Lincoln Project, a Republican-founded PAC dedicated to the online skewering of Donald Trump and other similarly-aligned politicians, put up a “Who wore it best?” tweet with side-by-side pictures of DeSantis in white-booted glory and the Green M&M from the candy’s ad campaign featuring anthropomorphic chocolate treats.
Late night talk show hosts got in on the fun, with an Oct. 6, 2022 New York Times roundup sharing some of the jokes, including Stephen Colbert quipping, “Looks a little less ‘governor on the go’ and more ‘governor of the Go-Gos.’”
USA Today columnist Ingrid Jacques, while acknowledging the memes and jokes to be a rich mine of humor, scolded those who indulged in DeSantis white boots-related humor. She penned an editorial coming to DeSantis’ defense—or at least chastening critics for mocking him in a time of Florida’s great need.
“This isn’t the time to be scoring political points against DeSantis,” she argued, citing Jimmy Fallon’s joke that said, “You’re not allowed to pass a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill then show up in public dressed like Nancy Sinatra.”
She then labeled that bill as one “which sought to give parents greater control over what young children are exposed to at school.”
An October 2022 Daily Dot exclusive on the push for the bill noted, “Although educators, LGBTQ people, and their allies have fiercely resisted the law, it’s been widely touted in right-wing circles, part of an effective media campaign by the administration to shunt criticism and tout its importance.”
Are people still referencing Ron DeSantis’ white boots?
The fascination with DeSantis in white boots has endured over time. On Aug. 16, 2023, podcaster and internet personality Spencer Hall got in on the action, posting the DeSantis in white boots photo with the caption, “hold on lemme get my puddin’-eatin’ boots on.”
On March 17, 2023, New Yorker humorist Andy Borowitz—in his news parody series “The Borowitz Report”—penned an article positing that DeSantis “has completed the installation of higher heels on his signature white boots in preparation for the 2024 presidential race.”
Which also is another accusation the governor faces: That he wears lifts.
After Hurricane Idalia hit Florida in August 2023, DeSantis did not wear any similar white boots.