Florida Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) spoke at four different conferences organized by a racist, conservative activist, according to a new report by The Washington Post.
In 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017, DeSantis attended conferences hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center in Palm Beach, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina, the organization’s president confirmed to the Post. The organization’s namesake founder has been labeled an “anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black” extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has asserted that the real race war in the United States is against white people and that Black Americans owe their freedom to white people.
DeSantis has described himself as “admirer” of Horowitz’s work.
“I just want to say what an honor it’s been to be here to speak,” DeSantis during a speech at a 2015 event in Charleston. “David has done such great work and I’ve been an admirer. I’ve been to these conferences in the past but I’ve been a big admirer of an organization that shoots straight, tells the American people the truth and is standing up for the right thing.”
DeSantis was reportedly joined at the conferences by far-right darlings such as Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Sebastian Gorka, all of whom have long records of espousing racist or anti-immigrant views. Among the topics discussed at the events: radical Islam, free speech on college campuses, and multiculturalism.
Additionally, the Florida congressman attended the 2017 Freedom Center Conference free of charge, enjoying a complimentary stay at a luxurious Palm Beach resort, according to his congressional financial disclosure forms.
DeSantis himself has something of a troubling history of making racist or incendiary comments.
On August 29, one day after Tallahassee Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum — who would become the state’s first Black governor if elected — won the state’s Democratic nomination, DeSantis used a series of racist dogwhistles in an interview, calling rival Gillum “articulate” and suggesting he might “monkey up” the state if elected.
Horowitz, unsurprisingly, came to DeSantis’ defense.
“There’s a lynch mob on his back,” Horowitz said in an interview. “Saying a black person is articulate is not racist — it’s praising him for him being articulate. Are there no inarticulate Blacks?’’
DeSantis eventually addressed his “monkey up” comments during a Fox News interview over the weekend. Asked whether he had regrets about the comments, he responded no, saying he instead condemned “nonstop political correctness.”
“Of course not, of course not,” DeSantis said in the interview. “…We cannot go down the road of nonstop political correctness. And people are going to demagogue what you say. That’s just unfortunately where we are at in this country. The voters, though, they know this was a nothingburger, and so I’m going to continue going forward just speaking the truth, but I’m not going to be derailed by these fake controversies.”
DeSantis’ decision to defend his comments — as well as his decision to speak at a conference held by an avowed anti-black activist — should come as no surprise, given his documented history of blatant racism.
The Miami New Times, a local alt-weekly, published an article last week documenting the many times the congressman has made similarly racist comments, including when he dismissed Democratic New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ociasio-Cortez, a woman of Puerto Rican descent, calling her “this girl…or whatever she is.”
Rep DeSantis, it seems you‘re confused as to “whatever I am.”
I am a Puerto Rican woman. It‘s strange you don’t know what that is, given that ~75,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to Florida in the 10 mos since María.
But I’m sure these new FL voters appreciate your comments! https://t.co/xJlroSe5Hs
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) July 23, 2018
Last May, after DeSantis lamented the “four liberals” on the Florida Supreme Court who overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of raping and murdering a child because the decision had not been unanimous, a DeSantis supporter suggested “bring[ing] back the hanging tree.”
When the Tampa Bay Times asked for clarification on DeSantis’s position on the issue, the campaign said it stood by the “hanging tree” comment.
“Ron thinks that Floridians should be forgiven for having some pretty strong and not at all politically correct feelings about what should happen to this animal. Let’s be clear; we’re talking about someone who kidnapped, raped and murdered an 11-year-old girl,” the campaign said in a statement. “The Florida Supreme Court’s decision was appalling and demonstrates once again why we need someone like Ron DeSantis, who stared down terrorists while serving in the Navy in Iraq and at the terrorist detention center in Guantanamo Bay, to appoint constitutionalists who will apply the law correctly.”
DeSantis was also recently outed as the former moderator of a Facebook group that was a hotbed for racist memes and posts.
DeSantis also made headlines in early August after campaign ad featuring his wife showed him teaching his infant son to say “build the wall” and reading him an excerpt from Trump’s “The Art of the Deal.”
A recent Quinnipiac University poll suggests the race between DeSantis and Gillum is neck-and-neck, with Gillum at 50 percent and DeSantis at 47 percent.