August 29th, 2018 – The first day of the general election in Florida’s gubernatorial race began with controversy as Republican nominee Ron DeSantis warned voters that they shouldn’t “monkey this up” by electing his opponent. Andrew Gillum is the Democratic opponent voters can elect this November, and yes, he is black.
Gillum won the primary last night in an election where he wasn’t the favorite to win. He’s the mayor of Tallahassee and ran on a platform of universal health care, legalizing marijuana and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, among other progressive policies. His supporters didn’t have much time to celebrate today as they quickly rebuked the words DeSantis used.
“You know, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views and he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said during an interview with Fox News. “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 going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”
Terrie Rizzo, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, took to Twitter to make a statement.
“It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles.”
Gillum would become Florida’s first black governor should he win in November. He made his own appearance on Fox News saying that the intent behind the phrase was not lost on him and took the dog whistle phrase a step further.
“In the handbook of Donald Trump, they no longer do whistle calls — they’re now using full bullhorns,” he said. “I’m not going to get down in the gutter with DeSantis and Trump, there’s enough of that going on, I’m going to try to stay high. It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump, but I think he’s got another thing coming to him if he thinks that in today’s day and age Florida voters are going to respond to that level of derision and division.”
Two people who are often divided on CNN were actually able to find some common ground following the remarks. Commentators Angela Rye and Ben Ferguson disagreed on his intent, but agreed that he should have known the implication and taken responsibility by apologizing.
“I would say to Ron DeSantis, shame on you. If you don’t understand the history throughout this world with putting black people in the same vein as monkeys, it’s a problem,” Rye said. “When you say something like this, and clearly there are people who are offended, it is real simple how to handle this. You come out and you apologize,” Ferguson added.
The DeSantis campaign did not apologize. Spokesperson Stephen Lawson released a statement dismissing any racial interpretations.
Comparing black people to apes and monkeys has long been a tactic to hurl racist insults, and that tactic hasn’t slowed down much in recent years. ABC and Roseanne Barr might ring a bell. Those speaking out against DeSantis weren’t just calling out his use of the word “monkey” but also “articulate.” Critics say that word choice has a racial connotation used to imply that a black person wouldn’t be expected to be so intelligent.
He called him “articulate” then said don’t “monkey” this up. They’ve only been running against each other for about 12 hrs in Florida.
What Ron DeSantis really meant to say was Andrew Gillum is “black. Very black. Super black. Incredibly black. Obama black. Terrifyingly black. Willie Horton black. Urban violence black. Thug black. Kenyan socialist black. NFL black.” But at least he’s articulate.
The guys who give Ron Desantis a pass today on “articulate” and “monkey-up” when speaking on his opponent Andrew Gillum are some of the same guys who said a black man couldn’t play quarterback on the football field when I was 10-years old.