Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Is Spineless

Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, has been touted as a possible candidate for his party’s 2024 presidential nomination. Judging by a recent incident in the sunshine state, he should definitely be removed from the list of contenders.

The reason is clear.

On January 29 and 30, 15 to 20 neo-Nazis gathered on a highway overpass in the city of Orlando, in Orange county. According to videos posted on social media, they shouted antisemitic slurs, stretched out their arms in stiff Nazi salutes, and assaulted a Jewish passerby.

They vented their antisemitic animus just weeks after a hostage-taking incident in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, during which the Pakistani attacker was killed by police.

A bipartisan array of Florida politicians, including U.S. senator Rick Scott, a Republican, and Val Demings, a member of the House of Representatives representing the 10th district in Orlando, condemned the neo-Nazi outrage in Orlando.

However, DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, reacted by posting an inane tweet in which she astonishingly suggested that the neo-Nazis were actually Democrats in disguise.

As she wrote, “Do we even know they’re neo-Nazis? Or is this a stunt like the ‘white nationalists’ who crashed the Youngkin rally rally in Charlottetown and turned out to be Dem staffers? I trust Florida law enforcement to investigate and am awaiting their conclusions.”

She was referring to an incident during which the Lincoln Project, an anti-Donald Trump Republican political action committee, dispatched a group of people masquerading as white supremacists to a Republican rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin.

Responding to Pushaw’s tweet, the Anti-Defamation League expressed alarm that she had given “cover to antisemites” and had not forcefully condemned “their revolting, hate-filled rally and assault …” The Anti-Defamation League added, “We expect any public official … to address the fears of the Jewish community thoughtfully — not with this troubling and careless approach.”

Orange county sheriff John Mina, announcing his office was launching an investigation, reacted appropriately. “This hatred has no place in our society,” he said. “Any reports of criminal activities will be throughly investigated.”

And what did DeSantis have to say? Lamentably very little.

He charged that Democrats were trying to use this incident as a political issue to “smear” him, “as if I had something to do with that.” He would not play “their game,” he declared.

Still fuming, he accused the Democrats of “fostering antisemitism” on Capitol Hill. Branding the neo-Nazi protesters as nothing more than “jackasses,” he said the matter was now in the hands of the police.

Like Scott, Demings and Mina, DeSantis could have denounced the despicable antisemites in no uncertain terms. But this was above his pay grade Instead, he spinelessly adopted a position of neutrality and shamelessly attempted to make political hay of this disturbing incident.

Several days ago, Orange county police disclosed they had arrested three of the neo-Nazis. They were identified as Joshua Terrell, 46; Jason Brown, 47, and Burt Colucci, 45. Terrell and Colucci were charged with battery. Brown was charged with theft. They may also be charged with a hate crime, said the police.

This much is certain. These neo-Nazis most certainly are not Democrats!

Nonetheless, DeSantis has remained inexplicably silent since their arrests. Why he lacks the decency and moral stature to condemn them is beyond understanding.

A spineless, gutless politician like him should be called out. Nor should he be elected to public office, either on the state or national level.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,
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