At best, that gaffe implies DeSantis, who is a seasoned lawyer with degrees from Harvard and Yale, is so ignorant he doesn't know it's a really bad idea to use the word "monkey" when talking about a black person.
But claiming his use of the word was a simple accident is also hard to believe because DeSantis has a clear, repeated pattern of making offensive and/or outright racist statements, hanging out with racists, and defending other people who are also racists. It's past time that DeSantis — long considered the most right-wing Florida congressman who is running on a platform of fealty to Donald Trump and pure anti-immigrant bile — lost the benefit of the doubt. Here's why:
1. He spoke at a Muslim-bashing event alongside Milo Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon.
David Horowitz, who runs the hard-core-Islamophobic FrontPage Magazine, organizes what he calls a "Restoration Weekend" every year. Past attendees have included Pamela Geller, Jeff Sessions, Nigel Farage, Laura Ingraham, and a slew of lesser-known Islamophobes and random alt-right cretins.
Last year's event included Milo Yiannopoulos, the ex-Breitbart writer whose career is in the toilet thanks to dueling pedophilia- and Nazi-sympathizing scandals; Hungarian nationalist group member Sebastian Gorka; former Trump adviser Steve Bannon; and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Jacksonville congressman who is now one of the frontrunners to become Florida's next governor.
DeSantis doesn't exactly shy away from courting the far right — he has leaned hard on Trump's January endorsement of him — but the appearance raises serious questions about the kind of company DeSantis is willing to keep.
Other attendees at last year's event were British alt-right troll Katie Hopkins (who once advocated placing Muslims in internment camps), fired Google sexist James Damore, "campus conservative" Charlie Kirk, Trump-worshipping Congressman Devin Nunes, virulent Islamophobe Mark Steyn, anti-immigrant author Douglas Murray, and fellow Florida Rep. Brian Mast.
Horowitz's Restoration Weekends don't typically get a ton of mainstream press, likely because Horowitz and his fellow FrontPage writers are far from household names. (Horowitz himself has spent this week on Twitter downplaying the severity of anti-black lynchings in the Old South.)
But DeSantis' appearance at the event last year, which went unreported save a few mentions in FrontPage and Breitbart, shows the congressman's willingness to pander to some of the most outwardly hateful members of the Republican base. At the time of the November conference, DeSantis had not yet announced his run for governor but apparently had no issues appearing alongside Yiannopoulos, who had already been outed for his comments endorsing pedophilia and his karaoke party with outright neo-Nazi Richard Spencer. BuzzFeed's damning report on Yiannopoulos' leaked emails — which showed him making Nazi jokes and using "kristallnacht" as a password — had hit the internet a month before the event took place. DeSantis, a former Tea Party darling, spoke on the same stage anyway.
2. He called New York candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is a Puerto Rican woman, "whatever she is."
Rep DeSantis, it seems you‘re confused as to “whatever I am.”— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) July 23, 2018
I am a Puerto Rican woman. It‘s strange you don’t know what that is, given that ~75,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to Florida in the 10 mos since María.
But I’m sure these new FL voters appreciate your comments! https://t.co/xJlroSe5Hs
3. He defended a supporter who
Per the Tampa Bay Times:
A candidate never knows what an excited audience member might say at campaign event that allows give and take. John McCain in 2008 memorably corrected a woman in Minnesota who called Barack Obama an Arab.
Last Saturday in Citrus County, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis told a group of voters about the "four liberals" on the Florida Supreme Court overturning the death sentence of the man convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 11-year-old Carlie Brucia in Sarasota County in 2004 because the sentencing decision had not been unanimous.
"I have a tree and a rope in my back yard," one audience member chimed in.
"Bring back the hanging tree," added the audience member, drawing laughter as DeSantis continued talking about the court.
Listen here for the audio.
Asked for clarification on his position, DeSantis' campaign stood with the hanging tree questioner. Hard to fathom any Republican primary candidate losing votes by standing for swift justice and vengeance for a child killer.
"Ron thinks that Floridians should be forgiven for having some pretty strong and not at all politically correct feelings about what should happen to this animal. Let's be clear; we're talking about someone who kidnapped, raped and murdered an 11-year-old girl. The Florida Supreme Court's decision was appalling and demonstrates once again why we need someone like Ron DeSantis, who stared down terrorists while serving in the Navy in Iraq and at the terrorist detention center in Guantanamo Bay, to appoint constitutionalists who will apply the law correctly."
Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed two of the current justices, and Chiles and Jeb Bush jointly appointed another. Republican governors appointed four of the seven current justices, though three of them were appointed by Charlie Crist, so….
4. He was
Click on a page called "Tea Party," which boasts 94,000 followers and claims to be "the oldest and largest #TeaParty group on Facebook," and you'll find that one of the first posts this morning is a glaringly racist meme showing side-by-side photos of Melania Trump and a heavily Photoshopped Michelle Obama with the headline "Make the White House Beautiful Again."
"Who's the guy on the right?" one commenter jokes about the doctored photo of Mrs. Obama, and another responds with a homophobic meme about President Obama.
The racist post is par for the course for the page, which has also shared at least six posts since Tuesday supporting Florida's new GOP gubernatorial nominee, Ron DeSantis. Perhaps that's because, until reporters began asking questions yesterday, DeSantis was reportedly one of 52 listed administrators of the offensive page.
DeSantis' affiliation with the Facebook group was turned up by Natalie Martinez, a reporter with Media Matters, who noted that numerous other GOP candidates are also admins, including Arizona Senate candidate Kelly Ward and Virginia Senate candidate Corey Stewart.
It doesn't appear that DeSantis himself posted recently on the page, but his affiliation with such an obviously racist group wouldn't help his argument that he "accidentally" used the phrase "monkey this up" in relation to his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, on Fox News yesterday.
Through a spokesperson, DeSantis later confirmed that he was an administrator of the Tea Party group but claims he was added to the page without his knowledge. "The Congressman was completely unaware that he was part of the Facebook group, which he was added to without his knowledge or consent. As soon as he found out about it, he immediately deleted it," Stephen Lawson, a campaign spokesperson, says in a statement sent to reporters.
5. He proudly associated himself with Sebastian Gorka, who has ties to a Hungarian far-right group that collaborated with the Nazis.
Per the Tampa Bay Times again:
Ron DeSantis seems to be making the most of his weekend trips away from Washington, already scheduling fundraisers for his gubernatorial campaign and glad-handing with Floridians.6. His career is based on immigrant-bashing, supporting Trump's insane comments, and ratcheting up deportations.
On Saturday, he was at the St. Lucie County Lincoln Day Dinner, where he introduced and endorsed former White House advisor Sebastian Gorka, a divisive figure who was forced out of his role last year.
"We're in an inflection point in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, and Dr. Gorka has been involved in this for a number of years," DeSantis said. "He was involved in really setting the main strategy in the White House under president Donald trump, and I think we have a chance to really win this fight during the Trump administration."
Gorka has been a divisive figure since he became an advisor to Trump. He has hard-line views on Islam and was not particularly well-known to policymakers before he was appointed a year ago to a job with no clear duties, the New York Times wrote last year.
He has also been accused of having ties to far-right groups in Europe. In August, Gorka was forced out of the White House.
Importantly, DeSantis hated immigrants long before Trump took office. In 2015, he proudly supported "Kate's Law," which would have ratcheted up punishments on undocumented immigrants because one mentally ill immigrant committed what was likely an accidental murder.
In the meantime, look at how often this guy yells about how Latino immigrants are bringing "lawlessness" into America:
There’s NOT going to be any sanctuary cities in Florida when I’m Governor! I’ve always opposed amnesty and stood up for the rule of law in our country. Cheap foreign labor is not an excuse to let lawlessness prevail in the sunshine state. We want people who come LEGALLY! pic.twitter.com/tIJwIVa1BA— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantisFL) July 6, 2018
7. Then he made the infamous "monkey this up" comment that his supporters claim was an "accident."
After last night's primary results made it official, Floridians assumed newly minted GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, a Confederate-flag bumper sticker come to life, would run a wild, dog-whistling, and entirely Trumpian campaign against Democrat Andrew Gillum.8. The Tallahassee Democrat reports that an Idaho neo-Nazi group is now making racist, pro-DeSantis robocalls in an offensive black "minstrel" voice with jungle music playing in the background:
But people perhaps didn't expect DeSantis to start slinging racial slurs this early in the race. Roughly 12 hours after DeSantis and Gillum were crowned the state's two gubernatorial candidates, DeSantis appeared on Fox News this morning and immediately compared Gillum, the state's first black gubernatorial nominee, to a "monkey." DeSantis also called Gillum "articulate" — long a racially coded term used to describe prominent black people.
After calling Gillum "too liberal" to run Florida, DeSantis added that Gillum was an "articulate spokesperson for those far-left views." He then added seconds later that "the last thing we need to do is monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupt the state."
Some reporters have already tried to give DeSantis the benefit of the doubt here and claim it was just a slip of the tongue, but in light of his primary campaign, he doesn't deserve that free pass. His entire campaign so far has been about genuflecting to Trump and bashing immigrants. One of his biggest campaign ads included him teaching his son about "building the wall" even though Florida doesn't share a land border with Mexico or any other nation.
Robocalls against Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum that say they were paid for by a neo-Nazi group in Idaho are going out to voters in Tallahassee.Update 9/14: DeSantis had to block a former Miami lawmaker from co-chairing one of his fundraisers because said lawmaker, ex-State Rep. Ralph Arza, in 2006 was accused of calling a man a "black piece of shit," leaving threatening messages on a colleague's cell phone and at one point calling that same colleague "my nigga."
The automated calls are narrated by someone pretending to be Gillum and using an exaggerated minstrel dialect with jungle noises in the background. The calls end with a disclaimer that they were funded by the Road to Power, an anti-Semitic, white-supremacist website and podcast linked to Scott Rhodes of Sandpoint, Idaho.
According to the Des Moines Register, a sister paper of the Tallahassee Democrat, the group has been linked to other robocall campaigns in Virginia, Oregon, and California.
Terry Kant-Rauch, a Tallahassee realtor, received one of the robocalls this morning in the voicemail of her cell phone. Kant-Rauch, a Democrat who happens to have a biracial daughter, became emotional after hearing it, she said.
“Campaign on the merits,” she said, “not on the color of his skin.”
Update: 9/17: According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, DeSantis in October 2017 spoke at a conference held by ACT! for America, a violently anti-Muslim organization classified as a
Update 9/20: Two different racism scandals broke in the same day! What a coincidence.
First, Politico reported that a DeSantis donor who once got the candidate to speak at Mar-a-Lago once called Barack Obama a "MUSLIM NIGGER" online.
And New Times reported that DeSantis's wife, Casey, appeared at a Broward County event alongside a Barack Obama "birther" who also has ties to an anti-Muslim extremist group. The conspiracy-theorist, Trevor Loudon, is also an administrator in the same racist Facebook group that DeSantis was caught running.