Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a rising star in Republican politics, has received a lot of buzz as a potential presidential candidate in 2024 though he’s remained noncommittal to a run. That didn’t stop him from netting an endorsement from the world’s richest man: Elon Musk.
Asked about the endorsement on Wednesday, DeSantis’ response was crisp: “I welcome support from African Americans. What can I say?”
It did not take long for the controversy to take off after DeSantis’ remark. Musk, who was born to white parents in South Africa in 1971 during apartheid, is from Africa, technically speaking.
But many Democrats, Twitter users and other commentators took issue with the comment given the governor’s record on racial and social justice issues during his term.
Florida state representative Angie Nixon criticized the comment and pointed to DeSantis policies that she said actively disadvantages Black Americans. This includes DeSantis’ push to gerrymander a primarily-Black voting district in Orlando, as well as his embrace of “policies that attack Black Americans and their communities.”
He suppresses the vote, cuts funding and pushes policies that attack Black Americans and their communities in Florida. Fixed it! https://t.co/6CxElRtYHZ
— Rep. Angie Nixon (@AngieNixon) June 15, 2022
Comments came from a wide spectrum of Twitter users. “Trolling racism when he openly courts racists is when you know he feels untouchable,” former MLB player Preston Wilson tweeted.
Trolling racism when he openly courts racists is when you know he feels untouchable. https://t.co/Jtto5jPlxB
— Preston Wilson (@PrestonWilson44) June 15, 2022
Other users contrasted the governor unfavorably to former President Donald Trump, who has drawn his own volleys of criticism for comments deemed racially insensitive. One user described DeSantis as a “Trump puppet” and suggested he tries to “pretend to be Trump.”
“It’s embarrassing how hard this dude is trying to be Trump in every single way,” another Twitter user said. “He even does the same hand movements and mannerisms as Trump,” wrote another user.
DeSantis has been coy about saying whether he would mount a run for the White House, regardless of Trump’s presence in a primary, and the former president is reportedly unhappy about it. Trump and some of his aides like long-time associate Roger Stone have directly and obliquely criticized DeSantis.
According to a report by Axios in March, Trump dismissed the governor as “dull” with “no personal charisma” to downplay his prospects as a rival. At the same time, it was reported Trump has been annoyed that DeSantis has not publicly committed to or declined to run in 2024.
DeSantis has made clear that his main focus is re-election to the governorship in November, but operatives and donors have taken steps that give the appearance that he is preparing for a run. In several straw polls at Republican gatherings, DeSantis has bested Trump on more than one occasion.