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Fox News anchor rebukes Florida Republican accused of racism for on-air ‘monkey’ attack

Fox News issued an extraordinary rebuke to Republican candidate for Florida governor Ron DeSantis Wednesday after he made a comment on the network’s air that Democrats immediately termed racist. 

A network anchor said it did not ‘condone’ a comment by DeSantis, a Florida representative in Congress, hours after the Trump-hugging candidate was accused of sending racist signals in the first hours of his general election campaign against Andrew Gillum.

Gillum would be the first African American governor of Florida if he prevails in November.

DeSantis, appearing on the network the morning after the Florida primary elections, urged voters not to ‘monkey around’ with his Democratic rival. 

Andrew Gillum with his wife, R. Jai Gillum at his side addresses his supporters after winning the Democrat primary for Florida governor on Tuesday. Within hours Trump attacked him as a ‘failed socialist’

‘Let’s build off the success we’ve had on Gov. [Rick] Scott,’ sai DeSantis, who got help from President Trump before and after his primary win.

‘The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases bankrupting the state. That is not going to work,’ he said.

President Donald Trump, asked about the comment Wednesday, said he hadn’t heard it. 

By Wednesday afternoon, following a growing backlash, Fox anchor Sandra Smith addressed the controversy on air. 

DeSantis acknowledged Gillum's 'charisma' but urged Florida voters not to 'monkey this up' in the hours after both men won their respective primaries. If elected, Gillum would become the state's first African American governor

DeSantis acknowledged Gillum’s ‘charisma’ but urged Florida voters not to ‘monkey this up’ in the hours after both men won their respective primaries. If elected, Gillum would become the state’s first African American governor

‘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,’ she said, referencing the ‘monkey this up’ comment.

The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases bankrupting the state. – Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis 

She continued: ‘DeSantis has since clarified his comment in a statement, saying, ‘Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left democrat trying to stop our success.’

Smith concluded: ‘We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement.’

DeSantis, in an interview with host Shepard Smith on Fox later Wednesday, made clear how he took the comment.

‘Yeah that part wasn’t lost on me,’ he said. ‘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. They’re sick of it,’ Gillum said.

Asked if the comment was racist or a figure of speech, Gillum linked DeSantis and Trump, who carried Florida in 2016 and regularly visits his golf properties there.  

‘In the handbook of Donald Trump they no longer do whistle calls, they’re now using full bull horns,’ he said, invoking the concept of racial dog-whistling.

'We do not condone this language,' said Fox News anchor Sandra Smith after the comment by DeSantis was denounced as racist

‘We do not condone this language,’ said Fox News anchor Sandra Smith after the comment by DeSantis was denounced as racist

‘We’ve got to make sure that we stay focused on the issues that confront everyday people. 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 and stay high and talk about what the North Star and the future is for the state of Florida,’ Gillum said.

He said Floridians are ‘just so sick of this divisive, derisive politics that has been coming out of Washington and it’s now infiltrated the politics of this state vis a vis Ron DeSantis.’

‘He’s very clear on Day One that he’s willing to go down to the gutter. In our opinion we’re going to win this race because we’re going to stay high,’ Gillum said.

Asked about the comment at the White House, Trump, a regular viewer of Fox programming, responded: ‘No I didn’t hear it, honestly.’

Asked if it was racist, Trump told CNN’s Jim Acosta: ‘I didn’t hear that Jim. I’ve been actually working on the deal with Canada so I have not heard it.’

Then the president added: ‘I tell you what I know Ron DeSantis. Ron DeSantis is extraordinary. Harvard, Yale, brilliant, ran an incredible campaign. Really beat a lot of people that he wasn’t supposed to beat because he came into the race and a lot of people … He’s an extreme talent and he will make a fantastic governor of Florida.’ 

The stunning slap from the host came after DeSantis in part rode the Fox airways to victory.

According to Politico, he appeared on Fox or Fox Business 121 times since December.  His campaign valued the air time at $9.3 million, and he used it to blow past an experienced Republican rival. He also made sure there wasn’t any daylight between himself and Trump – even pushing an amendment to defund special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which Trump brands a ‘witch hunt.’

We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement. – Fox News anchor Sandra Smith

New Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott has instructed producers to scrutinize the comments that hosts and panelists on the network say on air, Variety reported. 

Wednesday’s incident could indicate that this applies not just to run-of-the-mill guests but to elected lawmakers. 

State Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo blasted DeSantis over the comment immediately after it aired.

Andrew Gillum kisses wife, R. Jai Gillum as he addresses his supporters after winning the Democrat primary for governor on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tallahassee, Fla. If elected, he would be the first African-American governor of the state

Andrew Gillum kisses wife, R. Jai Gillum as he addresses his supporters after winning the Democrat primary for governor on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tallahassee, Fla. If elected, he would be the first African-American governor of the state

‘It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles,’ Rizzo said, The Hill reported. 

Said Florida Democratic Rep. Louis Frankel: ”That was more than a dog-whistle. That was absolutely a racist, disgusting statement. I don’t think there’s any other way to interpret it.’ 

A Gillum spokesman declined to elaborate but made his views known, telling the Tllahassee Democrat: ‘DeSantis’ comments speak for themselves.’

Chiming in was Republican consultant Anna Navarro, a longtime Jeb Bush supporter.

‘As a Floridian, it was my hope this Governor’s race would be about the pressing issues facing our state -rising tides, algae outbreak, trade, economy, jobs,’ Navarro tweeted. ‘I had hoped it would not be one were racism was front and center. That hope lasted all of 10 hours.’

A DeSantis spokesman told the paper: ‘Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd.’

DeSantis made the point that his own race could be a challenging one.

He called Gillum, the Tallahassee major, ‘an articulate spokesman for those far-left views’ while also referring to him as a ‘charismatic candidate.’  

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, attacked Florida Gillum Wednesday as a ‘failed socialist’ – and said he had allowed crime to ‘flourish’ – in another charged attack. 

Gillum laced his victory speech with attacks on the ‘derision and the division that has been coming out of our White House’ – and has called for Trump’s impeachment.

Trump wrote that having Gillum win was the 'biggest dream' for ultra-Trump supporting Rep. Ron DeSantis, the GOP candidate

Trump wrote that having Gillum win was the ‘biggest dream’ for ultra-Trump supporting Rep. Ron DeSantis, the GOP candidate

If he wins in November, Gillum will become the state’s first black governor. He quickly mopped up the endorsement of his most prominent rival, former House Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of popular senator and governor Bob Graham.  

The victory by the Bernie Sanders-backed progressive sets up Florida as a marquis governor’s race in November. He will face off against Trump loyalist Ron DeSantis, who himself trounced an establishment favorite, former Rep. and state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.  

‘Not only did Congressman Ron DeSantis easily win the Republican Primary, but his opponent in November is his biggest dream….a failed Socialist Mayor named Andrew Gillum who has allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city,’ Trump wrote.

‘This is not what Florida wants or needs!’

President Donald Trump speaks as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta looks on during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House August 27, 2018 in Washington, DC

President Donald Trump speaks as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta looks on during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House August 27, 2018 in Washington, DC

Leon County, which included Tallahassee, had the highest crime rate in Florida for three years in a row. The statistics were collected by the FBI, an agency Trump frequently attacks. Last month, Gillum called for GOP Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency and suspend the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law on gun use, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

From his victory speech, Gillum showed every intention of trying to nationalize the race – which takes place in an off-year election when Trump will be driving both supporters and opponents to the polls.

‘We’re going to make clear to the rest of the world that the dark days that we’ve been under, coming out of Washington, that the derision and the division that has been coming out of our White House, that right here in the state of Florida we are going to remind this nation of what is truly the American way,’ Gillum told cheering supporters Tuesday night. 

Trump congratulated Ron DeSantis for winning the Republican primary for Florida governor, as a liberal endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders pulled off an upset in the Democrat race, setting up an ideological clash in the key swing state.

‘Such a fantastic win for Ron DeSantis and the people of the Great State of Florida. Ron will be a fantastic Governor. On to November!’ Trump wrote in a tweet. 

The conservative DeSantis easily won the primary election on Tuesday after a campaign in which he highlighted his enthusiastic loyalty to Trump.

The conservative DeSantis (above) easily won the primary election on Tuesday after a campaign in which he highlighted his enthusiastic loyalty to Trump

The conservative DeSantis (above) easily won the primary election on Tuesday after a campaign in which he highlighted his enthusiastic loyalty to Trump

DeSantis, who was endorsed by Trump, beat state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republican nomination for governor.

‘I am not always the most popular guy in D.C., but I did have support from someone in Washington. If you walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, he lives in the White House with the pillars in front of it,’ DeSantis told supporters after his win, noting he had spoken to Trump. 

DeSantis made his allegiance to Trump the central theme of his race, airing a campaign ad in which he urged his toddler daughter to ‘build that wall’ with toy blocks.

In a surprise upset in the Democratic primary for Florida governor, Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, beat moderate Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.

Gillum, 39, who would be the state’s first black governor, surged in the final stages of the race and was backed by Sanders.

Hypothetical matchups show Gilliam and DeSantis roughly evenly matched in the race, which politicos will be closely watching for signals of 2020.

Trump immediately attacked Gillum by claiming he 'allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city' of Tallahasee

Trump immediately attacked Gillum by claiming he ‘allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city’ of Tallahasee

Key swing state Florida went to Trump in 2016, after voting for Barack Obama in the two prior presidential elections. 

This November, Florida also will host one of the country’s top U.S. Senate races between term-limited Republican Governor Rick Scott, who won the Senate nomination against token opposition, and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. 

The Senate race is currently a tossup, with the latest RCP polling average showing Scott up by a razor-thin margin of 1.5 points. 

After congratulating both DeSantis and Scott, Trump went on a tear on Twitter late Tuesday, tweeting about a variety of topics.

Trump speaks during a meeting with the President of FIFA Gianni Infantino in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Monday

Trump speaks during a meeting with the President of FIFA Gianni Infantino in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Monday

First, at 9.16pm he referred to a bombshell report from the Daily Caller claiming that China had access to Hillary Clinton’s notorious private email server while she was secretary of state. 

‘Are they sure it wasn’t Russia (just kidding!)?’ Trump joked. ‘What are the odds that the FBI and DOJ are right on top of this? Actually, a very big story. Much classified information!’

The President then turned to the lighter topic of sports. ‘Add the 2026 World Cup to our long list of accomplishments!’ he wrote, referring to the recent decision for the U.S., Canada and Mexico to jointly host the tournament.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump had hosted Gianni Infantino, the 48-year-old Swiss-Italian president of FIFA, and U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro in the Oval Office to celebrate the decision.

Next Trump turned to trade. ‘Our new Trade Deal with Mexico focuses on FARMERS, GROWTH for our country, tearing down TRADE BARRIERS, JOBS and having companies continue to POUR BACK INTO OUR COUNTRY. It will be a big hit!’ he tweeted. 

The U.S. and Mexico agreed on Monday to overhaul NAFTA, pressuring Canada to agree to new auto trade and dispute settlement rules to remain part of the three-nation pact.

At 10.26pm, Trump celebrated his recent decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA chief John Brennan, who now works as a contributor for MSNBC and NBC News.

‘New Poll – A majority of Americans think that John Brennan and James Comey should have their Security Clearances Revoked. Not surprised!,’ Trump tweeted.

The White House revoked Brennan’s clearance earlier this month. Comey, whom Trump fired as FBI director in May of 2017, currently retains his clearance.

After midnight, Trump returned to the subject of Clinton’s emails.

‘Hillary Clinton’s Emails, many of which are Classified Information, got hacked by China. Next move better be by the FBI & DOJ or, after all of their other missteps (Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA, Dirty Dossier etc.), their credibility will be forever gone!’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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