The Republican governor defended the decision to “deactivate” campus chapters of the advocacy group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) after entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, a rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, called the move “utter hypocrisy from someone who railed against left-wing cancel culture.”
“This is not cancel culture,” DeSantis said, later adding, “It’s not a First Amendment issue. That’s a material support to terrorism issue.”
When the NBC show’s host, Kristen Welker, asked if he had any evidence for his claim, he said, “Their own words are saying they’re part of this organization that they don’t just stand in solidarity, that they don’t just support what they did, but that this is their movement, too.”
“Once you hitch your wagon to a group like Hamas, that takes you out of the realm of normal activity, and that’s something that we’re going to take action against. So we believe we’re totally justified within the law,” he added.
It was unclear where DeSantis was gleaning the statement from, but the State University System of Florida claimed its decision was based on a “toolkit” the national SJP sent to its over 200 university chapters.
The group alleges the toolkit referred to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel as “the resistance.” HuffPost was not able to verify that such a toolkit exists.
University of South Florida’s chapter of SJP responded to DeSantis’ orders in a statement to USA Today last week, calling the declaration “disgraceful.”
“If followed through, a precedent would be set to shut down any organization that does not align with the ideals held by Governor DeSantis,” the group said. “Making this not just a setback for those who oppose apartheid, settler-colonialism and genocide, but for any who challenge the status quo.”
DeSantis frequently uses the Florida education system to push his “war on woke.”
He drew widespread criticism for enacting Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public primary school classrooms. In April, he asked to extend the policy to middle schools and high schools.
Last year, Florida was No. 2 on the list of states with the most book bans, pulling 357 titles from library shelves during the fall semester of 2022, according to the nonprofit PEN America.
Watch DeSantis’ full interview here: