As tensions intensify in Ukraine, Democrat Charlie Crist continues to challenge Ron DeSantis, questioning whether the Republican incumbent will “support democracy abroad.”
Crist’s campaign released a statement Wednesday challenging the DeSantis administration, posing the question: “Why won’t Ron DeSantis defend democracy abroad?”
“Gov. DeSantis’ administration is shamefully failing to give a straight answer on whether they support democracy abroad, from Ukraine to Cuba to Venezuela. This should be easy, Governor. Just tell the people of Florida whether you stand with democracy, or with Vladimir Putin, Nicolás Maduro, and the Castro regime. Your silence is a slap in the face to the countless Floridians who have suffered at the hands of authoritarians and dictators,” said Crist campaign press secretary Samantha Ramirez.
In reaching that conclusion, the Crist campaign spotlighted a quote from DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw, who stoked controversy when she invoked her own professional experience in that part of the world and questioned America’s ability to “promote democracy” in foreign lands given what she believes are issues on the homefront.
“Pre 2020, I was an idealist who truly wanted to help Ukraine become a strong democracy. I spent a lot of time in Ukraine, still have friends there I worry about now. But the sad fact is the USA is in no position to ‘promote democracy’ abroad while our own country is falling apart,” tweeted Pushaw.
In subsequent tweets, she described herself as “skeptical of the State Department’s democracy promotion efforts.” Pushaw went on to offer examples of where the federal government has fallen short.
“Maybe because we were treated to tweets about Antony Blinken’s Spotify playlist while Afghanistan fell to the Taliban? Maybe because my former boss is a political prisoner in a democratic ally & the day he was arrested the State Department tweeted about International Pronoun Day?” continued Pushaw.
Wednesday’s criticism from the Crist campaign followed up on a tweet from the Congressman demanding DeSantis account for Pushaw’s positions.
“America stands for freedom and democracy. We strongly support democratic values when they are threatened, whether at home or abroad. This statement is unpatriotic and should be condemned by DeSantis,” Crist contended.
Pushaw countered the Crist campaign’s framing of her remarks and the international situation writ large in comments to Florida Politics Wednesday.
“The Governor’s past statements and actions with regard to Cuba and Venezuela speak for themselves. I am not a psychologist, but there appears to be some projection going on here,” Pushaw said, noting that Crist himself visited Cuba in 2019.
Pushaw framed the remainder of the remarks in an individual capacity, reiterating her skepticism of an expanded American role in the region.
“As my tweet made clear, I believe we, as Americans are facing serious challenges at home, with the (Joe) Biden administration’s refusal to do their job securing our own country’s border, as well as the President’s blatantly unconstitutional power, grabs around COVID-19 mandates. Addressing the problems in our own country ought to take precedence over ‘democracy promotion’ abroad,” Pushaw contended.
She then rejected the framing of the Crist attack as misplaced.
“Moreover, this has nothing to do with taking sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which is not about ‘democracy promotion’ but about Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Pushaw said.
Pushaw had previously spotlighted the incongruity of Democratic candidates attacking her by way of attacking DeSantis.
“Aspiring gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried attack me, a mere staffer, because they know that they are NOT on (DeSantis’) level,” she tweeted Wednesday.