Ron DeSantis defended Elon Musk as “a guy that believes in America” on Sunday as the Florida governor refused to condemn X’s billionaire owner for an antisemitic post that caused numerous key advertisers to desert the social media platform.
In an interview Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, the Republican Florida governor claimed he had not seen the message on the platform that was formerly known as Twitter. The message – in which Musk said an X user who accused Jewish people of hating white people was speaking “the actual truth” – was denounced by the White House on Friday as “abhorrent”.
Instead, DeSantis dedicated his remarks on CNN to exalting Musk as a banner carrier for free speech. And he dismissed other prominent right wingers who have expressed antisemitic positions as “fringe voices”.
“Elon has had a target on his back ever since he purchased Twitter, because I think he’s taking it into a direction that a lot of people who are used to controlling the narrative don’t like,” said DeSantis, whose campaign for the Republican 2024 nomination continues to crater. “I was a big supporter of him purchasing Twitter.”
When State of the Union host Jake Tapper brought Musk’s widely condemned “actual truth” message to the screen, DeSantis said he had “no idea what the context is” and said he would not “pass judgment on the fly”, although he said he stood against antisemitism “across the board”.
“I know Elon Musk,” DeSantis said. “I’ve never seen him do anything. I think he’s a guy that believes in America, I’ve never seen him indulge in any of that. So it’s surprising if that’s true.”
Critics have previously accused the governor of being slow to condemn rallies by neo-Nazis in his state, some carrying flags with the words: “This is DeSantis country.” He has attempted to portray the criticism as a “smear campaign” by political opponents while a campaign aide posted a “reprehensible” tweet suggesting DeSantis’s Nazi supporters were actually Democratic party staffers.
After Sunday’s CNN interview, senior Democrats were skeptical of DeSantis’s insistence he hadn’t seen Musk’s message. The message drew headlines globally and prompted disgusted major companies – including Apple, Disney, IBM and Warner Brothers – to suspend advertising on X.
“The guy’s running for president, and Elon Musk [posted] that on Wednesday. It’s Sunday. So this is four days later, and he has not had the chance to read what Musk wrote? That is very hard for me to believe,” Democratic US House member Jamie Raskin of Maryland told Tapper.
“You showed it to him, and he still refused to condemn it. If you’re serious about condemning and confronting antisemitism, and racism, and these bigotries, which are the gateway to destruction of liberal democracy, you’ve got to be explicit and open and full throated about it when you’ve got [the opportunity] to denounce antisemitism and racism across the board.”
DeSantis has vocally supported Israel since its war with Hamas began in October. On Sunday, he urged greater US support for the Israeli’s military’s onslaught against Hamas in Gaza.
“We need to let Israel win this war,” DeSantis said. “We should support them publicly and privately to actually finish the job, because if you just do some glancing blows, Hamas is going to reconstitute itself and we’re going to end up in the same cycle going forward.
“Israel’s in a situation where they suffered the biggest attack on Jews since the Holocaust. You have an organization, Hamas, that wants to wipe Israel totally off the map. This is not just some minor dispute. This is an existential threat to the survival of the world’s only Jewish state [and] they have to do whatever they can to protect their people.”
DeSantis pointed to his ban of a pro-Palestinian student group from Florida’s university campuses, a policy challenged in court this week on free speech grounds, as an example of standing up to terrorists.
“We have Jewish students fleeing for their lives because you have angry mobs,” he said. “I have constituents in Florida whose kids don’t even want to go to campus … because of such a hostile environment.”
Tapper, in a thinly disguised dig at DeSantis’s well publicized previous attacks on minority students on grounds of race and gender, replied: “Absolutely Jewish students, just like Muslim students, Black students, gay students, or all students, should feel safe on campuses.”
Source: US Politics - theguardian.com