On Wednesday morning, Florida gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) said what some in the media have labeled a racist “dog whistle.”
Speaking about the election, as well as his African American opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, DeSantis said:
Well, look, I mean this is it, Florida elections are always competitive. 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, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views. And he’s a charismatic candidate. I watched those Democrat debates – none of that was my cup of tea – but, I mean, 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 and to 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 is not gonna work. That’s not gonna be good for Florida. So I’m gonna fight for what I believe in because I think I’m the guy who could really lead Florida in a good direction.
Later on Wednesday, Gillum responded by saying that DeSantis was going “down to the gutter,” that his comment was a “bullhorn” rather than a “whistle call,” and that it was “directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump.”
Appearing on MSNBC, former Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Michael Steele, himself an African American, had the following exchange regarding the remarks with Chuck Todd:
TODD: I want to talk about the DeSantis “monkey” comment here a minute. Why didn’t he get the benefit of the doubt? Michael?
STEELE: Why didn’t DeSantis get the benefit of the doubt?
TODD: The assumption was that he didn’t misspeak, that it was one-hundred percent a racial dog whistle. Is it because he’s connected to Trump? He didn’t get the benefit of the doubt from many people, including Fox News.
STEELE: No, it’s not because he’s connected to Trump, it’s because it’s how white folks talk about black men who are successful.
[Todd then played DeSantis’ comment in full.]
TODD: What’d you hear?
STEELE: I heard that he’s “articulate,” that he “performs well.” You know, he’s checking off those boxes. Why do you have to describe him that way, you know? What makes him articulate? Chuck, you are an articulate man. You perform well.
TODD: Doesn’t happen to a lot of white candidates.
STEELE: Doesn’t happen to a lot of white candidates.