Liberal Florida gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum on Wednesday slammed his opponent Ron DeSantis after the Republican warned voters earlier in the day not to “monkey this up” by voting for Gillum in November.
During an appearance on Fox News, anchor Shepard Smith asked Gillum, who is black, if he considered DeSantis’ comment racist or a figment of speech.
Earlier Wednesday, the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party accused DeSantis of “racist dog whistles.”
“Well, in the handbook of Donald Trump, they no longer do whistle calls,” Gillum said. “They are now using full bullhorns.”
Gillum, a Bernie Sanders-backed progressive who won Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary in an upset on Tuesday, accused DeSantis of “taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump” and said he believes Florida voters are “sick” of the division from DeSantis.
DeSantis, who won the Republican nomination for governor on Tuesday, made the remark during an appearance Wednesday on Fox News.
DeSantis said “we’ve got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction,” adding “the last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.”
But DeSantis’ office dismissed claims that his remarks had a racial dimension as “absurd.”
“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” spokesman Stephen Lawson said in a statement. “To characterize it as anything else is absurd.”
During his Fox News interview, Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, addressed the ongoing FBI investigation into possible corruption in the city he has led since 2014, denying any wrongdoing.
“I don’t expect any trouble my way….I welcome their investigation to get to the bottom of any corruption that might exist,” Gillum said.
According to local news outlets – which have extensively covered the case – the FBI has been investigating potential corruption related to land deals in the city. Last year, the FBI issued subpoenas for documents from the city of Tallahassee related to developers.
Gillum in 2016 also interacted with an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a businessman interested in investing in Tallahassee, according to those reports. He was introduced to that agent by lobbyist Adam Corey, a longtime friend who has since been subpoenaed as part the probe.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Gillum scheduled a meeting with the undercover FBI agent while on a Costa Rica vacation with Corey in 2016.
Republicans, in the aftermath of Gillum’s primary win, are doing everything they can to draw attention to Gillum’s link to the probe and make sure it casts a shadow over his campaign.
“With Andrew Gillum, Florida Democrats have selected a radical far-left politician who remains at the center of an FBI anti-corruption investigation,” the Republican Governors Association said Tuesday.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.