‘They tried to play games, they tried to politicize.’
Gov. Ron DeSantis Monday discussed a demonstration by neo-Nazis in Orlando over the weekend but spent more time dragging Democrats and mainstream political opponents than the neo-Nazis themselves.
The Governor, who was in Palm Beach County talking infrastructure, was asked by reporters to respond to the neo-Nazi demonstration. DeSantis was personally silent on the matter up until Monday afternoon.
“So what I’m going to say is these people, these Democrats who are trying to use this as some type of political issue to try to smear me as if I had something to do with it, we’re not playing their game,” DeSantis said.
“Some jackasses doing this on the street, first of all, state law enforcement is going to hold them accountable because they were doing stuff on the overpass. So they’re absolutely going to do that, and they should do that,” DeSantis added before going back on the political counteroffensive.
“But I’m not going to have people try to smear me who belong to a political party that has elevated antisemites to the halls of Congress,” DeSantis said, singling out Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
“They even have people in their party that have cavorted with (Louis) Farrakhan,” DeSantis said, with every comment getting farther away from the weekend’s central events.
Over the weekend, a group of neo-Nazis lined a bridge in eastern Orange County, hanging the swastika flag and banners — including a banner with the pro-Donald Trump slogan “Let’s Go Brandon” — and yelling profanities and antisemitic slurs at passing cars.
“They tried to play games; they tried to politicize. Why would they do that? Why would they want to elevate a half-dozen malcontents and try to make this an issue for political gain?” DeSantis asked. “Because they want to distract from the failure that we’ve seen with Joe Biden.”
Democrats are “tied at the hip” with Biden, DeSantis argued.
“We’re not going to let them get away with these stupid things where they’re trying to smear somebody unfairly. I will not be smeared by them, and that’s the reality,” DeSantis vowed.
The Governor’s comments came after his principal spokesperson seemed to struggle with messaging in the wake of the demonstration and demanding that DeSantis respond. Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls have issued statements denouncing the neo-Nazi demonstrators.
In a tweet posted Sunday night and later deleted, press secretary Christina Pushaw responded to Twitter outrage over an Orlando Nazi demonstration by asking, “Do we even know they’re Nazis?”
Pushaw then sought to clarify that statement. “I don’t know what you mean by ‘denying Nazis.’ I was referring to this event in VA, when a group of Democrats dressed up as White supremacists to discredit a (Glenn) Youngkin rally,” she told Florida Politics Monday.
“Nazi imagery and hate speech, whoever is using it, is never acceptable. Nobody from our office ever suggested it was,” she added, calling attempts to “tie” the neo-Nazis to DeSantis “disgusting political smears.”