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DeSantis spoke at events attended by popular right-wing figures

DeSantis spoke at events attended by popular right-wing figures
© Greg Nash

Florida gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight 'Hamilton' star aims to educate displaced Puerto Ricans about Florida voter ID laws De Blasio campaigns for Gillum while Florida Dem helps with Hurricane Michael recovery MORE (R) spoke on four separate occasions at a conference organized by a conservative activist and attended by prominent right-wing figures, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

The newspaper reported that DeSantis attended the David Horowitz Freedom Center conferences in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 in the six years since he was elected to Congress. Horowitz, the founder of the conference and an opinion contributor to The Hill, has said the country's "only serious race war" is against whites, and has espoused anti-Islam views.

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The Washington Post reported that in three of the four speeches it reviewed, DeSantis attacked Democratic policies but did not explicitly discuss race.

Elizabeth Fusick, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, told the Post that the congressman "is happy to be judged on his record."

“He does not, though, buy into this ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ notion that he is responsible for the views and speeches of others," she told the news outlet. 

Other speakers at the conference have included former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders. 

More mainstream conservatives, including Department of Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryTrump administration could use military bases to export coal, gas Overnight Energy — Presented by Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance — Trump taps pick for energy regulator | EPA left key official out of 'secret science' rule | EPA takes out language on climate impacts on kids Trump must avoid Obama mistake with bailout of energy companies MORE and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), have also attended the conference in the last five years.

Race has already become a major talking point in the upcoming gubernatorial election between DeSantis and Andrew Gillum (D), who is black.

DeSantis sparked backlash last month when he urged voters to reject Gillum by warning them not to "monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.”

Critics viewed the comment as racially charged, and called on DeSantis to apologize. The congressman has downplayed the criticism, asserting the comment had "zero to do with race."

A few days later, Gillum was the target of a racist robocall from an out-of-state white supremacist group.

"We can have a challenge between ideas and around what we think the people of the state of Florida deserve. What I don’t want this race to turn into is a race of name-calling," Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, Fla., said in response to the robocalls.

"I want to make sure that we don’t racialize, and frankly, weaponize race as part of this process," he added.