GOP Candidate for Florida Governor Spoke at Racially Charged Events

September 10, 2018

By Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a gubernatorial nominee who recently was accused of using racially tinged language, spoke four times at conferences organized by a conservative activist who has said that African Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country’s “only serious race war” is against whites.

DeSantis, elected to represent north-central Florida in 2012, appeared at the David Horowitz Freedom Center conferences in Palm Beach, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, said Michael Finch, president of the organization. At the group’s annual Restoration Weekend conferences, hundreds of people gather to hear right-wing provocateurs such as Stephen K. Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Sebastian Gorka sound off on multiculturalism, radical Islam, free speech on college campuses and other issues.

“I just want to say what an honor it’s been to be here to speak,” DeSantis said in a ­27-minute speech at the 2015 event in Charleston, a video shows. “David has done such great work and I’ve been an admirer. I’ve been to these conferences in the past but I’ve been a big admirer of an organization that shoots straight, tells the American people the truth and is standing up for the right thing.”

The Florida gubernatorial campaign is one of the marquee races of 2018, pitting DeSantis, a Trump acolyte and lawyer in the Navy Reserve, against Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, who would become the state’s first African American governor. President Trump has endorsed DeSantis, and Gillum is backed by progressive leader Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont. In less than two weeks since the primary, race has become a central issue in the nation’s largest battleground state.

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