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DeSantis: 'Monkey' comment was not about race

In an interview on Fox News, Florida republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis said his 'monkey comment' about his opponent Andrew Gillum has zero to do with race. CNN's Ryan Nobles reports.

Posted: Sep. 4, 2018 4:57 AM
Updated: Sep. 4, 2018 5:06 AM

A racist robocall targeted Andrew Gillum days after the Tallahassee mayor won the Democratic nomination in the Florida governor's race, giving him a shot at becoming the state's first black chief executive.

The 78-second prerecorded message, obtained by CNN, is narrated by a man speaking in a caricature of a black dialect with cartoonish jungle noises in the background. It ends with a disclaimer that it was paid for by The Road to Power, a white supremacist and anti-Semitic video podcast hosted by Scott Rhodes of Idaho.

The phone message went to Florida residents, but it's unclear how many received it. The Tallahassee Democrat first reported the robocall.

The same neo-Nazi group recently sponsored robocalls in Iowa, using Mollie Tibbetts' death to attack Latinos and promote white supremacy, the Des Moines Register reported. There have also been reports the group previously targeted local officials in California, Virginia and Washington state.

The Gillum campaign's communications director, Geoff Burgan, said the robocall is "reprehensible -- and could only have come from someone with intentions to fuel hatred and seek publicity."

"Please don't give it undeserved attention," he said.

The campaign of Gillum's Republican opponent, Rep. Ron DeSantis, also denounced the robocall.

"This is absolutely appalling and disgusting -- and hopefully whoever is behind this has to answer for this despicable action," DeSantis communications director Stephen Lawson said.

"Our campaign has and will continue to focus solely on the issues that Floridians care about and uniting our state as we continue to build on our success," Lawson said.

DeSantis faced criticism earlier this week for saying during a Fox News appearance that Florida voters should not "monkey this up" by electing Gillum the day after he won the Republican primary for governor. DeSantis' campaign denied the comments had anything to do with race.

"Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses. To characterize it as anything else is absurd," said Stephen Lawson, the communications director for the DeSantis campaign.

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