The Slatest

Republican Candidate for Governor Says Florida Voters Shouldn’t “Monkey This Up” by Voting for the Black Democrat

Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis speaking in front of a banner for the Zionist Organization of America.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, now the Republican nominee for governor of Florida, in Washington in May.
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Florida’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis said that voters shouldn’t “monkey this up” by voting for Andrew Gillum, his Democratic opponent, who is black.

“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,” De Santis said during an interview on Fox News. “That is not going to work, that is not going to be good for Florida.”

The comments came in the midst of DeSantis praising Gillum’s political skills: “He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views, and he’s a charismatic candidate. I watch those Democrat debates … he performed better than the other people there.”

Terrie Rizzo, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, told the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, “It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles.”

A DeSantis spokesman said the “monkey this up” comments were innocuous and told NBC News reporter Ali Vitali that it “had nothing to do with race or anything like that” and that DeSantis uses the phrase “frequently” to describe something messed up. The spokesman later issued a fuller statement saying it was “absurd” to characterize the remark as racist.

Update, Aug. 29, 1:22 p.m.: Fox News, having apparently sensed DeSantis’ comments were problematic, contacted Slate to point out that the host interviewing DeSantis, Sandra Smith, addressed the remark on a subsequent segment:

“A little while ago, we had Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor in Florida on for an interview to discuss the Florida election. During the interview, he made what some are calling an inappropriate comment about his democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum,” Smith said. Smith then said, “We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement.”

She then added that Gillum will appear on Shepard Smith’s broadcast at 3 p.m.