When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered a hotel in Iowa on Friday, he was immediately ambushed by a woman who peppered him with questions about when he would “drop out” of the race and whether he’s “already wasted enough of people’s money” as she followed him with a camera.
Afterward, the encounter found its way to social media. The woman — far-right social media influencer Laura Loomer — cut a scene in which she said DeSantis “looked petrified,” adding she believed “his soul left his body when he saw me.”
“He’s going to lose,” Loomer, a twice-failed congressional candidate and self-described “proud Islamophobe” said in a clip filmed outside the hotel. “President Trump is going to kick his a– on Monday, Jan. 15. And that’s it for Ron. You killed your political career and I hope you’re happy. You just got Loomered, b—-.”
Perhaps more notable than the encounter, though, was which of Loomer’s biggest fans quickly promoted it on social media; former President Donald Trump plugged the video on his Truth Social account on Saturday.
It was just the latest in a series of promotions and praise Trump has offered Loomer during the campaign, and it has some allies and advisers worried that he’s giving a figure they see as a fringe, far-right activist too close of an embrace — one that could come back to bite him during a general election campaign.
“Everyone who works for him thinks she’s a liability,” one Trump ally said.
Earlier this month, Loomer, who has promoted conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and several mass shootings, rode with Trump aboard his plane on a trip to Iowa, and she has suggested she would like to serve as Trump’s press secretary during a second term.
Onstage at his pre-caucus event on Sunday, Trump gave Loomer a shoutout, saying, “You want her on your side.”
This summer, he appeared with Loomer in a video at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club in which he described her as “really very special.” And, as The New York Times reported in April, Trump called on campaign aides to hire Loomer for an official role on the campaign, only for a high-ranking campaign official to shut down the hiring after the story was published.
Last month, Trump promoted a video on his Truth Social account of Loomer telling an interviewer she once told a former romantic partner who thought she was too focused on Trump that they needed to understand that Trump was her first priority.
“And if you think that you’re more important than President Trump, then you have some kind of, like, delusional personality disorder,” she said in the video. “I have to say that was the end of that relationship. President Trump’s my number-one priority right now.”
“Thank you, Laura!” Trump wrote.
Trump has long embraced some of the more fringe figures on the right who have lavished him with praise. He has asked people around him what they think of Loomer and views her as someone who is unafraid of speaking uncomfortable truths, a source familiar with discussions said.
“And he likes what she did with DeSantis,” the person added.
Her targeting of DeSantis stretches far beyond her ambush video from Friday. She’s previously accused the governor’s wife, Casey DeSantis, of “FAKE CRYING ABOUT CANCER.” Late last year, she followed and filmed a top DeSantis aide, Christina Pushaw, around the Florida GOP’s November summit.
One DeSantis ally said Trump’s promotion and embrace of Loomer “shows that the adults are not in control in Trump World as much as they like to appear to be.”
“At the end of the day, they can’t keep Trump from doing some of these crazier things,” this person said.
Loomer did not respond to requests for comment from NBC News ahead of publication, but she went on X after this story went up and criticized anyone who might object to her involvement.
“The only people who are worried about President Trump embracing me are people who are disloyal to him and have something to hide. I’ve been nothing but a net positive for President Trump,” she wrote in a lengthy post.
“There seems to be a lot of people who are very triggered by the idea of President Trump having a loyal friend who looks out for him and doesn’t ask for anything in return,” she added.
Within the past few days, Loomer has posted about being removed from DeSantis and Nikki Haley events in Iowa. Although she and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who has tied himself closely to Trump, had gotten along better, she began blasting the upstart candidate after Trump and his advisers started calling him a “fraud” on Saturday. With brutal weather closing in on the Hawkeye State ahead of Monday’s caucuses, Loomer even claimed that friends of Haley’s were literally manipulating the weather.
After her ambush of DeSantis on Friday, Will Chamberlain, a conservative attorney who formerly worked on DeSantis’ campaign, tweeted that “there’s a name for people who, after being kicked out of a private event, follow the featured speaker at that event back to their hotel to harass them in the lobby. It’s called a stalker.”
Within an hour, Loomer wrote: “Haters call me a stalker.”
“But, they wish they had someone who loved them as much as I love Donald Trump,” she said.
“All my enemies secretly wish I was their street fighter. NEVER BACK DOWN, BABY!”
Some fear Loomer’s proximity to Trump could fuel Democratic attacks against him as he pivots to the general election, which may prompt those advising him to limit his exposure to her — a move that could anger Trump.
“He’s going to get pissed,” said the person familiar with Trump’s discussions about Loomer.
Multiple Trump allies told NBC News there is frustration over her closeness to him despite these repeated attacks because Loomer has also taken her online cudgel to the hip of Trump’s political operation: Brian Jack, the political director of his 2024 campaign. This spring, she repeatedly attacked Jack online, calling him a “mole” in the campaign, after claiming that he sought to undercut her last congressional bid.
“Brian Jack is probably one of the biggest parasites in Trump World,” Loomer wrote in June. “He needs to be fired.”
Since he launched his latest presidential bid, Trump’s current campaign brass has delicately balanced maintaining a tight-knit and loyal inner circle while not alienating supportive outside voices, like Loomer’s, or cutting off their access to him.
Democrats have already linked the two. After Trump appeared with her at his golf club in August, the Democratic National Committee issued a press release that said Trump “reached another low over the weekend when he once again met up with extremist and self-described white nationalist Laura Loomer — for at least the second time this year.”
“This is the state of the 2024 GOP primary: With Republicans in no rush to condemn him, Donald Trump continues to surround himself with some of the most far-right, extreme members of the party,” the release continued.
Loomer gained prominence during the Trump administration when her anti-Muslim posts online got her banned from a series of social media, ride-sharing and payment apps. In 2018, she handcuffed herself to Twitter’s New York City headquarters for about two hours to protest her ban from the platform.
She ran for a House seat in Florida with Trump’s backing in 2020, losing to Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel by about 20 percentage points. In 2022, she lost a GOP House primary in another Florida district to Rep. Daniel Webster. After her defeat in that race, Loomer addressed supporters through tears and refused to concede the election, alleging voter fraud and saying, “We do not live in a free country.”
Multiple Trump campaign officials, as well as the DeSantis campaign, did not respond to a request for comment, either. A Haley campaign official declined to comment.
One of Trump’s most prominent right-wing allies has already publicly offered a harsh condemnation of Loomer after The New York Times reported on the potential for the campaign to hire her. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., wrote at the time that Loomer was “mentally unstable and a documented liar” and “can not be trusted.”
“Never hire or do business with a liar,” Greene, whose office did not respond to a request for comment, added. “Liars are toxic and poisonous to everything they touch. I’ll make sure [Trump] knows.”
Loomer herself hasn’t shied away from taking on some of Trump’s closest political allies, including Greene and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., writing in October: “Matt Gaetz is all about Matt Gaetz. Disloyal, unreliable, & more than happy to sell MAGA out for personal gain.”
“I don’t know who she gets along with really — she’s so fringe,” a second Trump ally said, adding, “You could label her total fringe of the MAGA.”
“This is so bad for Trump to be around her,” this person continued. “This is not a good look.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com