The mayor of Tallahassee stopped just short of calling Trump himself a “racist,” instead stating that the president, like his Republican gubernatorial race challenger former Rep. Ron DeSantis (Fla.), has supporters who believe he is.
“I have not called the president a racist,” Gillum said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Thursday. “But there are racists in his sympathizers who believe that he may be. Which is why they go to his aid. Which is why he has provided them cover. And I believe that his cover has led to much of the degradation in our political discourse.”
“I think the same is true for Mr. DeSantis, who has accepted money from folks who called the president a Muslim N-I-G-G-E-R,” he added.
Gillum, who would be Florida’s first black governor if elected next week, made similar statements about DeSantis at a debate at Broward College last Wednesday.
“I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” Gillum had said. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”
Throughout his campaign, Gillum has been the target of overt racism. A white supremacist group in Idaho produced two extremely racist robocalls sent out in Florida that target Gillum. DeSantis has vehemently denied having anything to do with them.
DeSantis has been accused of making several racist statements in the lead-up to the election. In August, he told voters not to “monkey this up” by voting for Gillum. The phrase was interpreted as a racist dog whistle, but DeSantis ― who has a history of spreading racist and Islamophobic conspiracy theories ― insisted he said it innocently.
Trump on Monday tweeted, citing no evidence, that Gillum is a “thief.” Gillum told CNN on Thursday that Trump’s aggressive rhetoric is “beneath the station” of the presidency.
“The tone that we’re seeing right now set nationally and that has seeped into the race here ... is beneath the station of the office and it’s beneath the intelligence of the voters,” Gillum said.
“They want me to get into name-calling, but as I will rely on some of the advice from my grandmother,” he continued. “She used to say, ‘Never, ever wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.’ I can’t think of no one better who wants to wrestle but the president and Mr. DeSantis. I’m not interested in that.”