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Matt Gaetz steps in it with a comment about 'Kill-em' Gillum.

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Joe Henderson: Matt Gaetz ‘kill-’em’ remark straight out of middle school

Um, Matt Gaetz?

It wasn’t funny.

It wasn’t clever.

I’d say the Republican congressman from the state panhandle ought to be ashamed of himself, but he is a politician, and every time anyone thinks there is a line that can’t be crossed, it gets obliterated.

This was one was especially tasteless, though, referring to Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum as “Andrew Kill-‘em” — a reference to an FDLE report that the crime rate in Leon County has been the highest in Florida for four consecutive years.

You know, this might be a good time to bring up Gaetz’s A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association. At least 14 of the county’s 22 homicides in 2017 involved a gun. Oh, that’s right — guns don’t kill people, bullets do.

That’s not to say Tallahassee’s crime rate is not fair game on the campaign trail, but juvenile remarks like the one Gaetz made lowers the debate to something you would expect to hear in middle school. The issue merits a serious discussion, not just the same ol’ crap that we need arm everyone and the good guys will sort it out.

I imagine Matt Gaetz and the guys had a good chuckle around the table when this nickname was hatched, but I guess it’s understandable. After all, the leader of the GOP, President Trump, has elevated name-calling to an art form — so anything that plays to the base, right guys?

Do they really believe this makes Florida a better place, or they just don’t care and laugh it off as political hardball?

Democrats were quick to pounce, calling Gaetz’s lowbrow attempt at humor as racist and irresponsible. Janet Cruz, who is running for state Senate, called it “an abomination” and demanded Gillum’s Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, disavow the remark.

He has not.

Maybe this is also a good time to recall that on the day after the primary, DeSantis said Gillum, an African-American, could “monkey up” the state’s economic growth by calling for higher corporate taxes to pay for the expansion of health care.

DeSantis later called the national flap over the remark a “nothingburger.”

Maybe to him.

Now this.

Republicans can let their eyes grow wide in denial and put their hands to their foreheads in faux “who, us?” anguish after not-so-subtly reminding their base that Gillum is black, but they are playing the race card. Period.

Gaetz’s remark was reminiscent of Barack Obama’s first campaign for President, the one where some Republicans delighted in emphasizing his middle name — Barack HUSSEIN Obama — while people like Donald Trump kept the insipid theory alive that he wasn’t born in America and he was a secret Muslim out to invoke Sharia law here.

There are reasonable arguments to be made against voting for Gillum, starting with the real question of how he could work with Republicans if they keep control of the House and Senate. His signature issues of health care expansion and raising the starting pay for public school teachers to $50,000 would never get out of committee, let alone to his desk for a signing ceremony.

But it’s just easier to smear and snicker.

That says more about Matt Gaetz and DeSantis than it does Gillum.

Written By

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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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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