(The Hill) – Several Republican presidential hopefuls slammed former President Trump for his comments praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday, after the country received a seat on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) executive board.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis all criticized the former president, who offered his congratulations to Kim in a Truth Social post on Friday.
“No one should be praising the dictator in North Korea or praising the leader of Russia who has launched an unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine,” Pence told Fox News while in Iowa on Saturday. “This is a time when we ought to make it clear to the world that we stand for freedom and we stand with those who stand for freedom.”
The former Indiana governor also attacked the organization, claiming it “let America and the world down” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I mean, they literally were complicitous in covering what was happening in China, and we held them to account during our administration.”
Pence is expected to launch his campaign for the 2024 Republican nomination next week, after months of hinting at a potential White House run.
Haley denounced North Korea’s ascension to the WHO board on Friday, calling it a “total farce.”
“You don’t congratulate a thug,” she added on Saturday, when asked about Trump’s comment. “I mean, let’s keep in mind, this thug has threatened America, has threatened our allies, over and over again.”
“This is not something to play with,” Haley continued. “I mean, he’s a terrible individual. He’s terrible to his people, he’s terrible to our allies in the world, and I don’t think he deserves congratulations.”
DeSantis, who officially joined the Republican field late last month during a glitch-ridden Twitter Spaces event, said he was “surprised” to see Trump’s congratulations to Kim, who he described as a “murderous dictator.”
All three were in Des Moines on Saturday for Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) annual Roast and Ride fundraiser.
Trump has previously touted his relationship with Kim, telling Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward that the two had “good chemistry.” He also exchanged what he called “love letters” with the North Korean leader.