Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum says he doesn't plan to "get down in the gutter" with Ron DeSantis after the Trump-endorsed GOP nominee warned Floridians not to "monkey this up" by voting for Gillum.
Earlier on Wednesday, DeSantis went on the Fox News show America's Newsroom, where he told host Sandra Smith that Gillum was "an articulate spokesman for those far-left views and he's a charismatic candidate," but that Florida voters should not "monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state." If elected, Gillum would become the first African-American governor of Florida.
Florida Democrats have characterized DeSantis' comments as "racist dog whistles" because of a long, ugly history of racist tropes comparing black people to apes and primates. A spokesperson for Fox News has since said the station "[does] not condone this language." The DeSantis campaign has called the accusations "absurd."
"Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses," a DeSantis spokesperson said.
In an interview with Fox News' Shepard Smith, the Tallahassee mayor reacted to the remark by saying it was "very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump."
"I think he's got another thing coming to him if he thinks that in today's day in age Florida voters are going to respond to that level of derision and division – they're sick of it," Gillum said. "What we're trying to offer in this race is a north star for where we want to go as a state."
When Smith asked Gillum whether he thought the remarks were racist, the Democratic nominee said he was "going to stay high" in this race.
"In the handbook of Donald Trump they no longer do whistle calls – they're now using full bullhorns," Gillum told Smith. "And what I’ve got to say about that is that we’ve got to make sure that we stay focused, I think, on the issues that confront everyday people. I’m not going to get down in the gutter with DeSantis and Trump – there's enough of that going on. … In our opinion, we're going to win this race because we're going to stay high and we’re going to remind Floridians of what the true spirit of the American way is and that’s what I’m going to do as governor."
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