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Ron DeSantis says there is ‘no change’ in his relationship with Donald Trump.

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Joe Henderson: Ron DeSantis ‘monkey’ comment naive at best, racist at worst

If Ron DeSantis didn’t believe it would be seen as racist when he said of the state’s economy we shouldn’t “monkey it up” by electing Andrew Gillum as Florida’s next Governor, then he is incredibly naive.

However, if this Donald Trump Mini-Me was sending a signal to remind his less, um … tolerant supporters that Gillum is, indeed, one election win away from becoming Florida’s first black Governor, then he might as well have announced to the world that he is a racist.

He will deny all that vigorously, of course, but I don’t believe there is any other way to interpret the astonishing interview DeSantis gave Wednesday on Fox News. Instead of just taking a victory lap after his blowout win over Adam Putnam (what must he be feeling right now?) in the GOP Primary, DeSantis took that moment in the national spotlight to utter a phrase that is incredibly offensive to blacks.  

Good Lord, Roseanne Barr — another FOT (Friend of Trump) — lost her highly rated TV show earlier this year with a similar slur against Valerie Jarrett, a former White House aide to Barack Obama.

Didn’t something from that story sink into Ron DeSantis’ brain before he spoke?

Guess not.

Right after this story sent the Twittersphere into a tizzy, I was thinking that I have lived more than six decades on this planet and until now I had never heard the phrase “monkey it up.” I saw shortly after that St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman tweeted the same thing. 

Mess it up? Sure.

But “monkey it up” — um, no. What a coincidence that the first time I heard that combination of words was is in reference to a black man running as the Democratic nominee for Governor.

That was about the time my eldest son sent me a text, weighing in on the topic. I mentioned it sure looked like a dog whistle and sounded like a dog whistle.

Ben Henderson responded: “That’s a full-on dog airhorn.”

You hear something like that, and you start thinking about Charlottesville and how Trump defended some of the white nationalists as “very fine people.”

You start thinking of the president’s jag against the National Football League over players taking a knee during the national anthem. The overwhelming majority of players doing that are black, trying to raise social awareness about issues with police.

Trump calls the protesters “sons of bitches” and even said, “maybe they shouldn’t be in the country.”

You remember the way Trump tried to demonize Obama — the whole issue about the birth certificate, being born in Kenya, and so on.

When you’re riding coat tails the way DeSantis rode Trump’s, and then you say something like this, what are people supposed to think?

I can’t think of a bigger gaffe occurring so soon after a gubernatorial primary win. It sent this Governor’s race straight into the swamp.

Maybe it was just an unfortunate word choice, as the DeSantis camp immediately tried to spin. If so, you would think a man hoping to lead the state for the next four years should understand by now that every word he says will be scrutinized for hidden messages.

Words matter.

When you want to be Governor of the nation’s third-largest state, you must know this.

If he doesn’t, he better learn quickly.

But Ron DeSantis will also have to understand why many people will assume he said exactly what he meant.

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I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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