Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said that claims about the 2020 election being stolen were false, directly contradicting a central argument of former President Donald J. Trump and his supporters.
The comments went further than Mr. DeSantis typically goes when asked about Mr. Trump’s defeat. The governor has often tried to hedge, refusing to acknowledge that the election was fairly conducted. In his response on Friday, Mr. DeSantis did not mention Mr. Trump by name — saying merely that such theories were “unsubstantiated.” But the implication was clear.
“All those theories that were put out did not prove to be true,” Mr. DeSantis said in response to a reporter’s question after a campaign event at a brewery in Northeast Iowa.
The more aggressive response comes a day after Mr. Trump was arraigned on charges related to his plot to overturn the 2020 election. As he has courted Mr. Trump’s voters, Mr. DeSantis has blasted the prosecution as politically motivated and has said that he did not want to see Mr. Trump charged. His new comments suggest that Mr. Trump’s legal peril may have altered his political calculation.
The governor has previously been far more circumspect about 2020, generally using such questions on the subject to talk about electability, lament the “culture of losing” that has developed among Republicans under Mr. Trump’s leadership and boast about the security of Florida’s elections.
On Friday, Mr. DeSantis did criticize aspects of the 2020 election, including changes to voting procedures made because of the coronavirus pandemic. But he specifically dismissed one particularly far-fetched theory that Venezuela, now led by President Nicolás Maduro, hacked voting machines.
“It was not an election that was conducted the way I think that we want to, but that’s different than saying Maduro stole votes or something like that,” he said. “Those theories, you know, proved to be unsubstantiated.”
Mr. DeSantis also said he did not have much time to watch coverage of his chief rival’s arraignment on Thursday.
“I saw a little bit,” he said. “Unfortunately, one of the things as governor that you have to do is oversee executions. So we had an execution yesterday, so I was tied up with that for most of the day.”