Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fired back at critics who have been calling on him to denounce Nazi rallies that occurred in Orlando over the weekend, saying that political opponents were attempting to "smear me as if I had something to do with it."
Fielding a media question about the videos and photos circulating online of small Saturday and Sunday demonstrations in Orlando in which protestors were wearing Nazi symbols and hurling antisemitic abuse, DeSantis attempted to shield himself from criticism that he had not publicly spoken about the hate rallies, which took place on the street and on highway overpasses.
The protests had already been denounced by many Florida lawmakers, including other Republicans, at the time DeSantis was asked the question, according to CNN.
The governor accused his critics of attempting to turn the hate rallies into “some type of political issue.”
“We're not playing their game,” he said at the Monday afternoon press conferences.
He referred to the protestors as "some jack*** doing this on the street,” and promised that Florida state police will "hold them accountable" for breaking Florida law by hanging flags on the fence of a highway overpass.
He noted that his administration has a history of supporting the Jewish community, and has passed legislation to combat antisemitism. It has also provided “record funding” for Jewish schools, increased economic cooperation with Israel and gone after companies that boycott Israel, he added.
"I'm not going to have people try to smear me that belong to a political party that has elevated antisemites to the halls of Congress, like Ilhan Omar (D-MN), that have played footsie with the (BDS) movement," DeSantis said.
One of the Florida politicians who strongly criticized DeSantis for not swiftly condemning the Nazi demonstrations was Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat who is planning to challenge DeSantis for governor of Florida. Fried said in a press release that she was "horrified but not surprised" that DeSantis has not yet condemned the rallies.
In mid-January, Fried was slammed by the ADL and Florida politicians for comparing DeSantis to Hitler.
In an interview with WLRN, Fried said: "I'm a student of history too, I saw the rise of Hitler. I've learned of those stories. I have studied Hitler and how he got to power you know, wanting his own militia and having his own militia."