'Craven silence': Author says Ron DeSantis is 'sending clear messages' he 'will tolerate hate speech'
Like former President Donald Trump, far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who, according to polls, appears to be heading for a solid reelection victory over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist in the 2022 midterms — has been accused by critics of showing a willingness to overlook hate speech and extremism when it is coming from strong supporters or allies. One of those critics is journalist/author David Rothkopf.
In an op-ed published by the Daily Beast on Halloween, Rothkopf lambasts DeSantis for failing to call out antisemitic or racist comments from members or allies of the MAGA movement — for example, rapper Kanye West.
“It’s been almost two full days since the words ‘Kanye is right about the Jews’ were displayed on a screen at TIAA Bank Field stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, and on another building in that city — a reference to Kanye ‘Ye’ West’s recent antisemitic comments that were straight out of the notorious forgery and roadmap for antisemitic conspiracy theories, ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,'” Rothkopf explains. “The state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, who was in attendance at the game, hasn’t said a thing in public about the messages, even as other leaders condemned them. This includes his Democratic opponent for governor, Charlie Crist, a former congressman and governor himself, who blasted DeSantis’ silence as a ‘disgusting and absolute failure of leadership.’”
Rothkopf continues, “As of Monday morning, DeSantis’ office has declined to comment on the incident. This craven silence is becoming a trend for the GOP star governor, the leading contender to be Trump’s successor as leader of the GOP.”
The journalist/author argues that although DeSantis “has cultivated relations with Jewish groups,” he has “sought to have it both ways — much as Trump has — by sending clear messages that he will tolerate hate speech.”
“According to The Forward,” Rothkopf observes, “DeSantis has failed to call out antisemitism when neo-Nazi crowds displayed swastikas, hailed ‘our glorious leader Ron DeSantis’ or hanged ‘Heil Hitler banners’…. DeSantis has run campaign ads that included Christian nationalist Pastor Larry Jinks, who has been quoted as saying, ‘We are called to be at odds with any religion that does not acknowledge Jesus as the Prince of Peace and the only way to the Father.’ Jinks, earlier this year, wrote on his Facebook page that ‘It’s a shame that the Jews, who should know better,’ rejected Jesus as their messiah…. One wonders if DeSantis, a shrewd political operator, senses that loudly condemning the despicable antisemitic messages in Jacksonville would alienate some crucial voters in the GOP’s base — just a week before the midterms.”
Rothkopf adds that DeSantis “has also trafficked in antisemitic tropes, vilifying Democrats as puppets of financier George Soros and condemning one official he fired as being ‘Soros-backed.’”
“The Florida governor actively campaigned for candidates who embrace antisemitic ideas and signals — perhaps most notably, another prominent GOP gubernatorial candidate, Doug Mastriano, currently running to be Pennsylvania’s chief executive,” Rothkopf notes. “Mastriano has drawn well-deserved criticism for not-so-thinly veiled attacks on the religion of his opponent, Josh Shapiro, and for his support for a far-right media platform called Gab. Mastriano has accepted donations from right-wing extremists and accused Soros, a Holocaust survivor, of being a Nazi collaborator.”
Rothkopf laments that DeSantis is far from the only MAGA Republican who is willing to overlook extremism.
“For those who thought that the Republican Party’s embrace of antisemites and White supremacists would end when Donald Trump left the national stage, the current election campaign has sent a deeply disturbing message,” Rothkopf writes. “Trump’s successors and supporters through the party, have time and time again shown they intend to carry on his legacy of hate and to continue to make the GOP a safe space for intolerance, racism, and Christian nationalism. And if Ron DeSantis’ silence on this weekend’s shocking antisemitic (incident) in Jacksonville tells us anything, it’s that he’s ready to lead that increasingly hate-driven Republican Party.”
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