Called an "extreme talent" by President Trump, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis today warned Floridians that if they elect his black Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, he would "monkey this up."
DeSantis's comment on Fox News (where else?) was immediately blasted by Democrats, who said the remark had racial overtones and was made deliberately.
Said DeSantis, “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. That is not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”
DeSantis campaign spokesman said the GOP nominee had no intention of making that a racial comment. It's just the way he talks, the spokesman said.
But Gillum didn't buy it. “Yeah, that part wasn’t lost on me,” Gillum said. “It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump.If he thinks that in today’s day and age Florida voters are going to respond to that level of division and derision, they’re sick of it."
DeSantis' remark was sharply rebuked by Terrie Rizzo, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, who said they were racially tinged. The Democratic Governors Association and other political groups also levied criticism.
“It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles,” Rizzo wrote on Twitter.
Obviously, it's impossible to know for certain whether DeSantis' comment was simply an innocent expression or if it was a sneaky racially tinged remark intended to appeal to voters with racist views. Regardless, it certainly was a poor choice of words and may signal a particularly nasty fall campaign.
And if it was meant as a subtle racial slur, it's just another example of the attitudes that seem to be encouraged by Trump through his own repeated comments.