Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis (shown above right) was talking on Fox News Wednesday morning about the direction he would like to see the Sunshine State continue in politically. And he spoke specifically about his own agenda in comparison to that of liberal Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum (above left).
DeSantis, who has received the endorsement of the president, said in an interview with Sandra Smith of Fox News, “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.”
Chaos ensued shortly afterward on social media: Many people accused DeSantis of dog-whistling about race with the term “monkey this up” — by ostensibly using a pejorative term for African-Americans.
Sandra Smith of Fox News told viewers of her program that Fox News does “not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement.”
Shepard Smith, the host of Fox News’ “Shepard Smith Reporting,” later on Wednesday asked Gillum about his opponent’s comment.
“Is it racist?” Smith asked directly, pressing Gillum for specifics.
“It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump,” replied Gillum.
He added that DeSantis “has another thing coming to him” if he believes Florida voters would “respond to that level of derision and division.”
“They’re sick of it,” said Gillum.
Is “monkey wrench” racist? People say “don’t throw a monkey wrench “ 🔧 when telling some not to sabotage or mess something up that isn’t broken. Where I come from a lot of people just shorten it and say “don’t monkey it up”.
— Kevin Oliver (@kevinfoliver) August 29, 2018
“Was that racist or a [figure] of speech?” Shepard Smith pressed.
“In the handbook of Donald Trump, they no longer do whistle calls. They’re now using full bullhorns,” Gillum responded, clarifying that he interpreted the phrase as one designed to appeal to people who are racists.
“I’m not [going to] get down in the gutter with DeSantis and Trump,” he added.
“There’s enough of that going on. I’m [going to] try and stay high and try to talk about … what the future is for the state of Florida and the people of this state. I think that’s what people want.”
Clock it: Ron DeSantis has been declared a racist by Democrats less than 12 hours after winning his primary election for saying Monkey this up…
That might be a new record time for the DNC. pic.twitter.com/xxKNRXc47b
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) August 29, 2018
After Gillum finished the interview, Smith added a clarification put out by DeSantis’ communications director, Stephen Lawson, with respect to the “monkey it up” phraseology.
“Ron DeSantis 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. 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.”
“Florida will be a barn-burner through November,” Smith said of the obviously heated race for Florida’s governorship.
See Gillum’s comments in video below.
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.