It’s been less than a week since Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum secured the Democratic nomination in the Florida gubernatorial race and already he has been the target of multiple racist attacks, including from his Republican opponent.
Less than 12 hours after the primaries were decided, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) appeared on television and warned that, if elected, his black opponent would “monkey up” the state. That came moments after he referred to Gillum as “articulate.”
DeSantis’s racist comments were swiftly condemned by almost everyone, but they appear to have served their intended purpose. Within days, a robocall sponsored by an avowed neo-Nazi began circulating around Florida. In the call, someone pretends to be Gillum, using a minstrel dialect and speaks over audible jungle noises.
DeSantis’s campaign offered an empty condemnation of the call, presumably because they prefer to engage in racism that’s slightly more subtle. But on Sunday during an appearance on CNN, Gillum made sure to point out the disingenuousness of DeSantis’s comments.
“I’ve called on my opponent to really work to rise above some of these things,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash in response to this week’s racist robocall. “People are taking their cues from him, from his campaign, and from Donald Trump, and we saw in Charlottesville that could lead to real dangerous outcomes.”
Gillum is right. The number of hate groups and hate crimes has risen sharply since Donald Trump first began campaigning in 2015, and white supremacists in particular have been emboldened as they watch the Trump administration adopt many of their talking points and even hire several of their ranks.
DeSantis’s campaign defended his “monkey” comments as much ado about nothing, but they reached the ears of his intended audience: the racists who make up the foundation of Donald Trump’s supporters. DeSantis may not have financed the robocall attacking Gillum this week, but he certainly invited it.