President Donald Trump’s pick for Florida governor made it clear he doesn’t want voters electing his African-American opponent to the state’s highest seat.
GOP gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, who represents Florida’s 6th congressional district, appeared on Fox News this week to rail against his competitor — Democrat and mayor of Tallahassee Andrew Gillum. Gillum, 39, secured a stunning victory in Tuesday night’s primary elections, putting him on track to possibly become Florida’s first African-American governor.
Griping about his opponent, DeSantis described Gillum as an “articulate and charismatic” candidate but argued his “too liberal” views aren’t what the state of Florida needs.
“Florida elections are always competitive, and this is a guy who, although he is much too liberal for Florida, I think he has huge problems with how he’s governed Tallahassee, he is an articulate spokesman for those far left views,” DeSantis said. “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.”
DeSantis’ comments set off a firestorm of reactions from critics who considered his words deliberately racist.
“Undoubtedly deliberate,” one woman wrote. “When you’re appealing to the base, you speak the language that you know will motivate them to vote.”
“Racist dog whistle by GOP’s Ron DeSantis? Or did Harvard Law honors grad just accidentally say ‘monkey’ when speaking of Black opponent,” another person chimed in.
Democratic Coalition chairman Jon Cooper slammed the comments as a “nonsubtle dog whistle to white supremacists” that proved DeSantis “doesn’t give a f-ck about making racist comments.”
“It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles,” Florid Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo added.
DeSantis has since clarified his statements, saying it’s “absurd” to think his “monkey” remark was racially charged.
“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” the GOP candidate wrote in a statement to Fox News. “To characterize it as anything else is absurd.”
Fox News host Sandra Smith said the network doesn’t condone DeSantis’ language.
Watch more in the clip below.