- ‘They all had man dresses on,’ said Ron DeSantis of his time serving in Iraq
- His comments about Middle Eastern traditional clothing drew ridicule
Men in the Middle East have worn long flowing robes for centuries.
Thobes or dishdashas protect the wearer from the brutal heat of the desert while maintaining modesty.
On Wednesday night, Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis called them ‘man dresses,’ mystifying or insulting a swath of the globe at a stroke.
Social media quickly lit up as users poked fun at his casual dismissal of the clothing worn by men in Iraq and much of the Middle East.
The bizarre moment came during the fourth Republican debate when DeSantis, the governor of Florida, was asked about his pledge to send troops to the southern border to shoot anyone crossing the border carrying the deadly drug fentanyl.
‘When I was in Iraq, al Qaeda wasn’t wearing a uniform,’ said Florida Gov, Ron DeSantis. ‘You’d see anyone walking down the street … they all had man dresses on.’
Do you mean the traditional dishdasha or thobe worn by men throughout the Middle East
He compared it with his time when he served as a lawyer with the U.S. Navy.
‘When I was in Iraq, al Qaeda wasn’t wearing a uniform,’ he said.
‘You’d see anyone walking down the street … they all had man dresses on.
‘You didn’t know if someone had a bomb, an [improvised explosive device] attached or not.
‘And so you had to make a judgement based on intelligence … based on positive identification.’
He may have been making an important point about how terrorists and drug smugglers blend into the local population.
But it was lost in astonishment at his characterisation of local garb as ‘man dresses.’
‘Is the GOP OK with Desantis calling every male in the Middle East wearing man dresses?’ asked Matt Willhite, a former state lawmaker in Florida.
‘I guess middle eastern men can’t wear traditional clothing.’
Viewers reacted with disbelief to DeSantis’ comments on Middle Eastern dress
Critics said it smacked of the way American service personnel take a chauvinistic view of locals in the countries where they are fighting.
‘It was already obvious he’s racist, but the fact that that disgusting remark went unchallenged – with two Indian Americans who clearly understand cultural dress on the stage – is even more gross,’ posted another user.
It is not the first time he has angered the Muslim world.
In a previous debate he talked about ‘so-called Islamophobia,’ as if he was skeptical that hatred of Muslims even existed.
And on Wednesday night he was pulled up for the way he has repeatedly talked about his time in the military when asked about foreign policy.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called him out on it earlier in the debate.
‘Ron gets asked a question and he doesn’t answer,’ he said.
‘Your question was very specific: You said would you send American troops as commander in chief?
‘And he went on to this minute 32 seconds Hosanna about his knowledge of the military and what we need to do and didn’t answer your question.
‘Look, when you’re president of the United States, you’re not gonna have a choice whether to answer that question or not.’