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DeSantis Continues To Face Backlash For 'Racist' Comments

Congressman Ron DeSantis is under fire for what some say was a racist description of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum's policies. Gillum and DeSantis are running for Florida governor. (8/29/18)
FOX News

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis is facing national backlash following remarks he made about his opponent Andrew Gillum. The racial implications of DeSantis’s comment have sparked outcry from figures across the political spectrum.

Congressman Ron DeSantis made headlines Wednesday after he used the phrase “monkey this up” when referring to Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum. DeSantis made the comments in an interview with Fox News.

“Let’s build off the success we’ve had on Gov. Scott," says DeSantis. "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.”

Now leaders from across the state, across the country and across the political spectrum are calling on DeSantis to apologize.

“The term monkey from our afro-centric psychological, theological perspective is highly offensive," says Reverend RB Holmes, president of the Tallahassee Chapter of the National Action Network. "And has historically been used in a very derogatory context.” 

“I pray to God that he will understand that many of the people he is asking to vote for him are offended," continues Holmes. "He did not call Mayor Gillum a monkey, he said his policies can monkey this is up. But what does he mean by ‘his policies can monkey this up?’ Why the word monkey?”

Fox News later in the segment said it does not condone that language and called the remarks “inappropriate.”

Less reported, however, is the first part of DeSantis’s comment in which he classifies Gillum as “an articulate spokesperson.”

The term articulate, often applied to prominent African Americans, is seen as a dog-whistle of its own. Washington Correspondent for PBS NewsHour Yamiche Alcindor explained in an interview on MSNBC’S Morning Joe.

“So the fact that you would call him articulate and say that he’s performing well is in itself racially-charged," says Alcindor. "Because you’re saying that black man with a degree can speak well. Which is of course something historically been something that African Americans have been called when you really want to say ‘black people shouldn’t be speaking this well. I’m surprised that you’re speaking this well.” 

The DeSantis campaign in a statement said the remarks were “obviously about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses” and to characterize it any other way is absurd.

And Gov. Rick Scott said while DeSantis was “inartful” he doesn’t believe he had any "ill will."

Gillum, however, says Floridians will not be divided.

“I do believe that the voters of the state of Florida are going to reject the politics of division," aruges Gillum. "It’s clear that the Congressman is going to join Donald Trump in the swamp. We’re going to leave them there and we’re going to continue to press toward a higher mark.” 

Shawn Mulcahy is a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU. He graduated from Florida State University in 2019 with majors in public relations and political science. He was previously an intern at WFSU, and worked as an Account Coordinator at RB Oppenheim Associates.