Daily Caller reporter: Cannot defend DeSantis 'monkey' comment in ‘any way’

A reporter from The Daily Caller on Thursday criticized Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) saying he doesn’t condone the Florida gubernatorial candidate's controversial remarks in “any way.”

Henry Rodgers said that DeSantis's comments, in which he warned Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by voting for his Democratic opponent, were “absolutely ridiculous.”

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” Rodgers said to Hill.TV co-hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

“I don’t think there’s any Republican who is going to come out here and defend DeSantis’s comments. I cannot defend this in any way.”

DeSantis drew immediate backlash for the Wednesday comments that he made on Fox News when discussing his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Gillum would be the first black governor of Florida if elected.

“This is a guy who is much too liberal for Florida, I think he’s got huge problems with how he’s governed Tallahassee — he’s an articulate spokesman for those far-left views and he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said in response to Gillum’s stunning win in Florida's Democratic gubernatorial primary.

“Let’s make sure we continue Florida going in a good direction, let’s build off the success we've had with Gov. [Rick] Scott — 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,” he continued.

Critics said the language was racist.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) tweeted that Florida's first African-American nominee for governor "would monkey this up" is "dogwhistle racism."

In the Hill.TV interview, Rodgers also emphasized that Fox News quickly distanced itself from DeSantis after the comments. 

Shortly after the remarks, Fox anchor Sandra Smith issued an on-air statement, saying that the network doesn’t “condone this language." 

But DeSantis campaign communications director Stephen Lawson said in a statement to The Hill that the Republican was "obviously talking about Florida" and argued that "to characterize it as anything else is absurd."

Gillum later addressed the remarks in his own segment on Fox News and tied them to President Trump's rhetoric.

Trump endorsed DeSantis in the Republican primary, and shortly after his win, the president congratulated DeSantis, saying he would make "fantastic governor" for Florida.

"It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump — but I think he’s got another thing coming to him,” Gillum told Fox News host Shepard Smith.

— Tess Bonn