Leaked 2018 video showing Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis prepping for his debate against Democrat Andrew Gillum features DeSantis attempting to tackle a controversy over his comment on the trail that year in which he warned voters not to “monkey this up” by electing a Democrat with socialist ties.
During his successful 2018 run for governor of Florida, then-Congressman DeSantis received blowback from the Gillum campaign and media when he told Florida voters not to “monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda.” DeSantis said the comment had “zero to do with race,” but Gillum and other Democrats — and some in the media — claimed it was racist. In the newly leaked debate prep videos obtained by ABC News, DeSantis is heard expressing fear that the comment would become “a mini version of Kavanaugh.”
“If I show any weakness on that, I think I lose my base,” DeSantis said in the videos. “I think that I appear to be less than a leader, and so I just think I’ve got to come at it full throttle and say that’s wrong.”
DeSantis said that he wanted to go hard on the issue and “speak to those people” who felt “political correctness has gone too far.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who has helped DeSantis with debate prep, felt that he had gone in “too hot” on the issue.
“It deserves to be hot!” DeSantis said. “I mean, I’m sorry! Kavanaugh showed that when you say, ‘fuck this. We did such a horrible job of pushing back on all these stupid stories from the beginning.’ He’s going to rattle off a list.”
Rep. Ron DeSantis, Republican candidate for Florida governor, speaks during a rally with President Donald Trump at Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
“Nobody thinks that’s what you meant,” one adviser off-camera told DeSantis.
“Right, that’s a thing. I mean, if I honestly meant — I would have apologized, I mean, because it would have been wrong. I mean, I’ll man up,” DeSantis said.
In another debate prep session, DeSantis also discussed a comment made by conservative commentator David Horowitz, who said in 2015 that black Americans should feel more “gratitude” toward white Americans for helping to end slavery. In the debate with Gillum, DeSantis said, “How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement someone makes?” In the debate prep, DeSantis said that the comment was “stupid” but not racist.
“A lot of the stuff they’re saying isn’t even racist. Like, David Horowitz said that, ‘Oh, Black people should thank white people for ending slavery.’ That’s a stupid comment, but that’s not the same thing,” DeSantis said.
Gaetz immediately warned that DeSantis would not win such an argument.
“I’m not gonna get into that,” DeSantis agreed. “I know I’m not gonna — I can’t win that, I know.”
“The point is, is that they’re taking things that have nothing to do with me, but they’re also making it way worse than they even actually were and then trying to paint, you know, paint a narrative. And it’s bullshit” DeSantis said.
“All this stuff, I mean is just a bunch of crap, I mean it really is,” DeSantis added.
At one moment in a prep session, the governor’s wife, Casey, said that perhaps his “monkey it up” comment was in reference to him reading his daughter’s favorite book, “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.”
Gaetz, who has already endorsed Trump for president, strongly denounced the leak of the DeSantis debate prep tapes.
I ran the Desantis Debate Prep in 2018.— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) May 7, 2023
Though I prefer Trump for President (bigly), the release of these videos by the person operating the camera is disloyal hackery that I do not abide.
Staffers who leak on the candidates they’ve done work for deserve the reputations they… https://t.co/3FsmbLbtab
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), another Florida Republican who has endorsed Trump but helped DeSantis with debate prep, also denounced the leak.
“I was on the DeSantis Debate prep team,” Donalds said. “These tapes should not have been leaked. It’s low class.”
I was on the DeSantis Debate prep team. These tapes should not have been leaked. It's low class. https://t.co/zNClyHn0iL— Byron Donalds (@ByronDonalds) May 7, 2023