It didn't take long for Ron DeSantis — the newly minted Republican nominee for Florida governor — to utilize a glaring dog whistle. Speaking to Fox News the day after his primary win, DeSantis said the African-American Democratic gubernatorial nominee would "monkey this up."
DeSantis was commenting on his opponent Andrew Gillum, the current mayor of Tallahassee, who enjoyed support from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist. Aside from saying Gillum would "monkey [Florida's economic success] up," he called the black politician "articulate."
“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,” DeSantis said to Fox News anchor Sandra Smith. “Let’s build off the success we’ve had under Gov. [Rick] 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 is not gonna work. That’s not gonna be good for Florida.”
Day 1 of DeSantis vs Gillum and DeSantis on Fox News uses the phrase “monkey this up” describing the race. pic.twitter.com/khKg6OA64J
— Matt Deitsch (@MattxRed) August 29, 2018
The campaign of DeSantis, a frequent Fox News contributor, denied the candidate said anything racially insensitive.
“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” Stephen Lawson, a DeSantis spokesman, said in an emailed statement, according to Buzzfeed. “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.”
Gillum did not respond directly but instead retweeted a critique of DeSantis.
— Terrie Rizzo (@TerrieRizzo) August 29, 2018