Over Labor Day weekend news broke that in areas of Florida residents received automated phone calls of a disturbing nature. The recording came from a pretend Andrew Gillum, Democratic candidate for governor. The voice and the words were degradingly racist. The New York Times described jungle drums and monkey noises playing in the background.
It also has no direct connection with the Florida election, but it does manage to give Florida Democrats and Andrew Gillum all they need to keep prattling about race.
Everyone with a functioning brain-pan has blasted the phone-call recording that was so sophomoric as to be embarrassing for anyone who created the minstrel-like Stepin Fetchit routine on tape. Stephen Lawson, spokesman for Ron DeSantis, called the robocall “appalling and disgusting.” Gov. Rick Scott also had stern words, “There is no room for any racial politics here in Florida -- none.” These rebukes of course were lightly reported on, and held little import for the accusers.
On the other side, Gillum's spokesman, Geoff Burgan said of the calls: “This is reprehensible -- and could only have come from someone with intentions to fuel hatred and seek publicity. Please don’t give it undeserved attention."
If only his words had reached his own candidate.
Andrew Gillum has been more than willing to keep attention on the subject of race ... while insisting he doesn't want to. Repeatedly.
Following the Ron DeSantis controversy last week, where he used the phrase “monkey this up”, Gillum stated he did not want race to become an issue during the campaign -- and promptly focused on DeSantis saying something he declares was racist. There was Gillum this weekend on CNN’s "State Of The Union," again bringing up the unfortunate phrase he declared he did not want to discuss.
Then he made this amazing contortion within one sentence: "I want to make sure that we don't racialize and, frankly, weaponize race as a part of the process, which is why I have called on my opponent to really work to rise above some of these things.” Um, how do you state you do not want to weaponize race and then declare your opponent must curtail his racist ways?
Also, on this weekend’s edition of "Meet The Press," Gillum continued to invoke the subject he says he does not want to talk about. Host Chuck Todd referenced the phone calls this way: “I don’t even want to give the name of the group, or anything, because I think they just want to get free publicity here.” A seemingly noble stance, and yet in doing so he also evades the source of those calls and, by extension, evades where the responsibility rests.
The calls have been referenced to a group known as The Road to Power, a white supremacist and anti-Semitic organization. In discussing these calls with a writing colleague of mine I had to step in and make a notable clarification. As he wrote, “What happened in Florida was horrible. And we must be quick to condemn and quick to shun these people from our movement.” I would normally be in total agreement with him, except for the facts surrounding the calls.
The Road To Power is not based in our state. At all. They originate in Idaho. This is not the first time this outfit has used such calls to make a statement for their intolerant cause. They previously sent calls to Iowa decrying immigration policy following the discovery of the body of Mollie Tibbetts. They have also called out to California backing an anti-Semitic candidate running for office.
They are not affiliated in any manner with Ron DeSantis, not based in state of Florida, nor connected to the Republican Party. Even using the words “they” and “group” is a stretch, as the lone concrete member who can be connected to Road to Power is a man named Scott Rhodes, host of a videocast under the RIP banner. And yet there is Andrew Gillum, willing to affiliate these calls directly to Ron DeSantis -- while not wanting to discuss race ... again.
“Honestly, people are going to take their cues from what their leadership says,” Gillum said to Chuck Todd, “and in this case Ron DeSantis is the leader.” And there it is. A possible lone racist grenade-tosser based across the country, with a history of these subversive calls, is being called out as a direct devotee of the GOP candidate. “But it’s also important that Ron DeSantis take control and ownership of his own rhetoric and words, Gillum continued. “People take their cues and sometimes they act out in ways that go far beyond what is appropriate in today’s environment.”
Todd asked Gillum if he thought Ron DeSantis was a racist, and Gillum would not answer the question directly. He declared, though, he would not be the one to descend into the gutter and name-call, the implication left to hang that his opponent is more than willing. Meanwhile, referencing a crank call from the northwest farm country as proof of racist intent by a candidate in this state is a high-minded tactic, but one Gillum does not want to engage in.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.