It's been less than a day since U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis was elected to be the Republican nominee for Florida governor, and yet somehow, he's already managed to shove both feet directly down his throat.
During a Wednesday appearance on Fox News, where he's made a home for the past months undermining the Russia investigation and defending President Trump, DeSantis said that Florida was going in a good direction. Voters, he added, shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Andrew Gillum, his progressive Democratic challenger who could become the state's first African-American governor.
"He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views, and he's a charismatic candidate," DeSantis said about Gillum to the Fox News host. "I watched those Democratic debates. None of that is my cup of tea but he performed better than the other people there, so we’ve got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let’s build off the success we’ve had on Gov. Scott. 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’s not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida."
Florida Democrats immediately pounced on his comments about the Tallahassee mayor.
"It's disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles," said Terrie Rizzo, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, in a statement.
Others, like Democratic nominee for Attorney General Sean Shaw, called DeSantis' remark outright "racist."
"The remark made by Congressman DeSantis was racist and offensive and has no place in our political discourse," Shaw said. "We already have a President that uses divisive and hostile language, and we do not need Ron DeSantis trying to import that from Washington to Tallahassee. Racism is cancer that must be weeded out. DeSantis should step aside if he cannot find a way to apologize and control the language that comes out of his mouth."
DeSantis spokesperson David Vasquez called the accusations against the Trump-endorsed candidate "absurd."
"Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses," Vasquez said in a statement. "To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left Democrat trying to stop our success."
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host Sandra Smith, who was interviewing DeSantis when he made the controversial comments, later did a follow-up segment
where she noted the station does "not condone this language." During her segment, Smith said:
"A little while ago, we had Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor in Florida on for an interview to discuss the Florida election. During the interview, he made what some are calling an inappropriate comment about his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum.
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DeSantis has since clarified his comment in a statement, saying, 'Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum Espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida's economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left democrat trying to stop our success.'
We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement. Also, Mayor Gillum will be on with Shepard Smith today at 3 p.m."