Former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele ripped Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisDHS official: Florida one of the 'best' states on election security, despite 2016 Russian hack Florida teacher arrested for loaded gun in backpack told reporter: 'Ask DeSantis' Trump officials not sending migrants to Florida after backlash MORE (R-Fla.) for urging Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by voting for his Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Andrew Gillum, who is African-American.

“… It’s how white folks talk about black men who are successful,” Steele said on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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Steele also criticized DeSantis for calling Gillum “articulate.”

“I heard that he’s ‘articulate,’ that ‘he performs well,’ … he’s checking off those boxes. Why do you have to describe him that way?” he said. "Doesn’t happen to a lot of white candidates," he added, echoing host Chuck Todd's comment.

DeSantis's comments came during an appearance on Fox News, one day after winning his GOP primary.

“You know, this is a guy, although he’s much too liberal for Florida, I think he’s got huge problems with how he’s governed Tallahassee," DeSantis said of the Gillum. “Let’s build off the success we’ve had on Gov. Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases bankrupting the state. That is not going to work," he later said.

Numerous people quickly condemned DeSantis's comments.

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo took aim DeSantis's initial remarks after the interview, saying in a statement, "It's disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles."

Fox News host Sandra Smith, speaking on behalf of the network on Wednesday, said, "We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement." 

DeSantis's campaign has denied that the candidate was criticizing Gillum because of his race. 

“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd," DeSantis communications director Stephen Lawson said in a statement to The Hill.