During a Fox News interview Wednesday, Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis warned voters not to "monkey this up" when they vote in November.
Critics quickly slammed DeSantis's comment as racist, since his opponent is an African-American. Others, however, argued that he had been referring to policies, not a person.
First, what did he say?
During his interview, DeSantis, who won the GOP primary Tuesday, said:
Florida elections are always competitive, and this is a guy who, although he's much too liberal for Florida, I think he's got huge problems with how he's governed Tallahassee, you know, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views, and he's a charismatic candidate. I watched those Democrat debates, and 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.
What did critics say?
Critics were quick to point out that DeSantis's comments could be taken as racist, since he was running against a black opponent, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D).
Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo responded, "It's disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles."
It's disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles. #FlaPol https://t.co/T9qRVYtbv3
— Terrie Rizzo (@TerrieRizzo) August 29, 2018
In his own Fox News interview, Gillum avoided directly saying that DeSantis's comments were racist, but said that DeSantis and other politicians who used "the campaign manual of Donald Trump" had gone from using dog whistle racist references to "full bullhorns."
What are other people saying?
At the Daily Wire, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro argued that people were overreacting to DeSantis's comments, and called the headlines painting them as racist were "wildly dishonest." Shapiro pointed out that the phrase immediately following "monkey this up" referred to Gillum's socialist agenda, not to Gillum himself.
A spokesman for DeSantis said as much to The Hill:
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.