Fox News denounces DeSantis's 'monkey' remark on Dem rival

Fox News host Sandra Smith said Wednesday that the network did not condone Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisTrump privately bashing DeSantis as 'disloyal' after breaking with him on Puerto Rico death toll: report DeSantis 'hell bent' on debating Gillum in Florida governor race Trump stands by tweets questioning Puerto Rico death toll: 'NO WAY' MORE's (R) language when he warned voters not to "monkey this up" by voting for his Democratic gubernatorial opponent Andrew Gillum.

DeSantis's remark about Gillum, who would be Florida's first black governor if elected, prompted quick backlash, with the state Democratic Party chair saying he was "launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles."

“A little while ago, we had Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor in Florida on for an interview to discuss the Florida election,” Smith said on Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” before reading a statement from DeSantis's campaign clarifying his earlier remarks.

"We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement," she added.

ADVERTISEMENT

The host noted that Gillum was set to appear for an interview on the network later in the day with anchor Shepard Smith.

During his appearance on Fox News earlier in the morning, DeSantis, who won his GOP primary the previous night, called Gillum "an articulate spokesman for those far-left views" and a "charismatic candidate" after his stunning Democratic primary victory on Tuesday night.

He then launched into an attack on Gillum, a candidate backed by Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWarren joins Sanders in support of striking McDonald's workers Kavanaugh allegations could be monster storm brewing for midterm elections      Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE (I-Vt.), accusing him of embracing a "socialist agenda." 

“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," DeSantis said.

DeSantis's campaign said in a later statement reported by Fox News and obtained by The Hill that it was "absurd" to claim the Florida Republican was doing anything other than criticizing Gillum's agenda.

“Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses,” DeSantis communications director Stephen Lawson said in the statement.

“To characterize it as anything else is absurd,” Lawson added. “Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left democrat trying to stop our success.”

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo had slammed 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."

Geoff Burgan, Gillum's campaign spokesman, told the Tallahassee Democrat that his campaign was letting Rizzo respond to DeSantis's comments, adding, "DeSantis's comments speak for themselves."

Gillum said in an interview with CNN later on Wednesday morning that he believes Florida and its "rich diversity" are going to be looking for a governor who "is going to bring us together, not divide us. Not misogynist, not racist, not bigots."