DeSantis Pressured to Denounce Spox’s Comments Suggesting Neo-Nazi Rally Was ‘Dem Staffers’

© AFP 2022 / Wilfredo LeeFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures as he speaks, Monday, June 14, 2021, at the Shul of Bal Harbour, a Jewish community center in Surfside, Fla. DeSantis visited the South Florida temple to denounce anti-Semitism and stand with Israel, while signing a bill into law that would require public schools in his state to set aside moments of silence for children to meditate or pray
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures as he speaks, Monday, June 14, 2021, at the Shul of Bal Harbour, a Jewish community center in Surfside, Fla. DeSantis visited the South Florida temple to denounce anti-Semitism and stand with Israel, while signing a bill into law that would require public schools in his state to set aside moments of silence for children to meditate or pray - Sputnik International, 1920, 31.01.2022
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Comments on social media over the weekend by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, provoked outrage on the left after she suggested that a demonstration by neo-Nazis near a Florida highway was actually Democrats in disguise.
Several anti-Semitic incidents were reported over the weekend, which came days after Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Red Army, a death camp where the Nazis exterminated roughly 1 million Jews because they believed them to be racially inferior.
One occurred on an overpass over Interstate-4 outside of Orlando, Florida, on Sunday. Photos snapped by drivers showed at least 20 individuals with several Nazi flags, as well as signs and banners hanging from the bridge, reading “Vax the Jews” and “Let’s Go Brandon,” the latter of which is a right-wing meme used as a minced oath for “f*** Biden.”
According to local news, the group yelled profanities and anti-Semitic slurs at passing vehicles and got into at least one physical altercation with someone not affiliated with their group.
The demonstration drew widespread condemnation from both major parties, including Republican Speaker of the Florida House Chris Sprowls and Democratic Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. US Sen. Rick Scott, a former Florida governor and a Republican, also condemned the demonstration. However, Pushaw had her own thoughts about things.
“Do we even know they’re Nazis? Or is this a stunt like the ‘white nationalists’ who crashed the Youngkin rally in Charlottesville and turned out to be Dem staffers? I trust Florida law enforcement to investigate and am awaiting their conclusions.”
As it happens, Florida Highway Patrol tweeted just two hours later they had “disbanded an anti-Semitic gathering on the overpass” over I-4.
The spokesperson was referring to an October 2021 incident in which several members of the “Never-Trump” Republican group The Lincoln Project dressed up as attendees of the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists held in Charlottesville, Virginia, complete with “tiki torches.” They then went to an event in the city hosted by Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin - now the Old Dominion’s governor - and stood outside his campaign bus.
Following widespread fury about the comment, Pushaw deleted the tweet, but added that she “only deleted it because I found out after that tweet that ‘National Socialist Movement’ is an extremist group that isn't connected to John Weaver's Lincoln Project.”
Many pointed out there was an inherent danger in minimizing the rise of far-right groups, not only because of the history of Nazism but also because even on the sidelines, such groups carry out hate attacks on a variety of targets, from Jews to Black people and members of the LGBTQ community.
“The very idea that the governor’s press representative suggesting such Neo-Nazis were fake is reprehensible,” Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, of Temple Israel in Palm Beach, told Politico on Monday. “This is the time for the public to be aware of the dangers of anti-Semitic extremism and not to traffic in the denial of that extremism.”
The rabbi called on DeSantis to denounce his spokesperson’s comments. The Florida governor has claimed to be “the most pro-Israel Governor in America” and raised his voice last summer to condemn Vermont-based ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s for complying with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) boycott of the West Bank, which the United Nations says is illegally occupied by Israel.
“When you consider that South Florida has the third-largest Jewish population in the country, and one of [the] most significant Jewish populations in the world, such silence on his part [is] tantamount to agreement,” Salkin added.
However, Pushaw seemed to dismiss those calls out of hand, asking on Monday, “if the governor himself does not issue a public statement of specific condemnation of whoever this group is, within a time period that the Left deems acceptable, he is smeared as a Nazi sympathizer by default?”
She also retweeted a comment by journalist Karol Markowicz suggesting that Democrats are “using Jews” to try and tarnish DeSantis’ supposed “philo-Semitic” credentials, using a term commonly invoked by Christian Zionists, who support Israel because they believe Jews returning to the Levant will bring about the End of Days and their own forced conversion to Christianity.
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