Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum said he’s “not getting into the gutter” with Republican opponent Ron DeSantis hours after the Trump-supported GOP nominee said he hoped Florida voters would not “monkey this up” if they elect Gillum, who is black.
“That part wasn’t lost on me. It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump,” Gillum said on Fox News on Wednesday afternoon, hours after DeSantis made the monkey comment on the same cable news network. “He thinks that in today’s day and age Florida’s voters are going to respond to that level of division. But I think he’s got another thing coming to him.”
Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, was pressed by host Shepard Smith to say if he thought DeSantis’ comments were explicitly racist. Gillum did not directly answer if he thought DeSantis' comments were racist, but he insinuated it.
“Well, in the handbook of Donald Trump they no longer do full whistle calls, they do full bullhorns,” Gillum said. “I’m not going to go down in the gutter.”
Fox distanced themselves from DeSantis’ comment, made about 12 hours after Gillum pulled off a historic upset to become Florida’s first black major party gubernatorial nominee. Sandra Smith, the Fox host who conducted the interview with DeSantis, later said that the station does not condone his choice of words.
“During the interview, he made what some are calling an inappropriate comment about his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum,” Smith said. “We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement.”
Stephen Lawson, communications director for the DeSantis campaign, said it was “absurd” to call DeSantis’ comments racist.
“He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views. And he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said of Gillum on Wednesday morning. “I watched those Democratic debates. 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 with 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’s not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”
DeSantis made the comment about 9:36 a.m. while appearing on Fox News following his victory in the Republican primary. He was speaking about Gillum, who won the Democratic primary after being endorsed by Democratic Socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
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