Florida's GOP gubernatorial nominee says voters shouldn't 'monkey this up' by electing his black opponent

Ron Desantis on Fox.
(Image credit: Screenshot/Fox News/Steve Morris)

Newly-minted Florida GOP gubernatorial nominee Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) drew criticism when he appeared on Fox News to discuss his Democratic opponent on Wednesday.

DeSantis, who decided to run shortly after President Trump tweeted that he "would make a GREAT governor," wasted no time in tearing down his Democratic counterpart, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who won his party's Tuesday night primary in a surprising upset.

DeSantis said Gillum is "much too liberal" for Florida, and added that "the last thing we need to do is monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state."

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The line was quickly interpreted by many to be racially charged. Gillum is the first African-American gubernatorial nominee in Florida. "The racist attack [DeSantis] just unleashed on [Gillum] is exactly why he's [Trump's] favorite congressman," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D). The Florida Democratic Party chairwoman called it "disgusting" that DeSantis "is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles."

A spokesperson for DeSantis told NBC News that the congressman "frequently" uses the phrase, and said it "had nothing to do with race or anything like that." Gillum's campaign took the high road, telling the Tallahassee Democrat that "DeSantis' comments speak for themselves." Watch the moment below, via Fox News. Summer Meza

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Update 2:50 p.m. ET: Fox News host Sandra Smith addressed DeSantis' comment, saying on behalf of the network that "we do not condone this language." She also read a statement sent to Fox News by the DeSantis campaign, in which communications director Stephen Lawson said that the candidate "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." Read more at The Hill.

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Summer Meza

Summer is news editor at TheWeek.com, and has previously written for Newsweek and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Santa Clara University, she now lives in New York with two cats.