Fox News host Martha MacCallum (above left) and guest Juan Williams (above right) verbally duked it out over whether monkey-centric idioms are expressions of racism or not on a heated segment of “The Story with Martha MacCallum,” Wednesday night on Fox News.
The heated exchange is still reverberating.
Gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) had sparked considerable controversy earlier in the day when he used the phrase “monkey this up” in a warning about what would happen in Florida if his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, succeeded in implementing the socialist policies on which he is campaigning.
Gillum is a black man. DeSantis is white.
“I understand he’s trying to put down his opponent, as every politician everywhere does, but in this moment, it comes across as racially charged,” said Williams, noting that DeSantis had also described his opponent as “articulate” and a “socialist.”
MacCallum said that when she heard DeSantis’ “monkey this up” phrase, it did not occur to her that it was racially charged at all.
MacCallum further pointed out that on social media, DeSantis’ words had been intentionally twisted. Some had embellished the phrase for their own purposes by fallaciously appending the words “by electing a black governor” to the “monkey this up” phrase.
“What kind of world are we living in?” asked MacCallum, noting that DeSantis had referred to the impact of socialist policies on the state — not of the state’s potential election of a black governor.
“Instead of saying he doesn’t want to be divided, [Gillum] is using this politically, right out of the gate.” Earlier in the day, Gillum had characterized the phrase as a “bullhorn” meant to appeal to racists.
Juan Williams defended Gillum, saying he should not be pilloried for his response and that he did not use the “bullhorn” comment to incite further division.
MacCallum pushed back, saying that Gillum’s communications team obviously crafted the “bullhorn” phrase for a reason.
Williams, though agreeing with MacCallum “in spirit” with respect to assuming the best about DeSantis, pointed out that President Trump has repeatedly called out black members of Congress such as Maxine Waters, and that this has contributed to societal racial tensions.
“There’s a real reason, in this moment, given that DeSantis is … Trump’s guy, that [DeSantis] is echoing this talk,” said Williams.
“At some point, you have to say, ‘You know what? I think you’re pushing that button for a very specific reason,’” he added. “To excite the worst elements that show up in a Charlottesville, and again, that’s where we are in America.”
“I think it’s really sad to make those assumptions about a phrase like that,” answered MacCallum.
Check out this video of the exchange, then see the tweets below:
Juan Williams plays the Race Card again by slamming Congressman Ron DeSantis over 'monkey up' remarks. Let’s be clear: If someone says “monkey” and your first thought is a black person, **you** are the racist. https://t.co/GXk4toVry6
— Samantha Chang 🌹 (@samantha_chang) August 30, 2018
— Joseph F Lockwood (@Joseph2482F) August 30, 2018
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.