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During an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Rep. Carlos Curbelo called the comment “stupid".
DeSantis will face off against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum – who became the first African-American to be a major party nominee.
One day after Florida’s GOP nominee for governor, Rep. Ron DeSantis, ignited a storm of controversy after using the phrase “monkey this up” when asked a question about his opponent in November, a member of DeSantis’ own party is calling on the representative to apologize.
During an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo called the comment “stupid,” though the Miami area representative added that he doesn’t think DeSantis is racist.
“I know Ron has clarified that it was in no way intended to be racist. But I think he should also apologize because obviously a lot of Floridians and probably a lot of Americans are offended by it given the circumstances,” Curbelo said.
DeSantis, who won the Republican nomination by nearly 20 percentage points this week thanks in part to the endorsement of President Donald Trump, will face off against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum – who was the upset winner in the Democratic Party primary and became the first African-American to be a major party nominee for the state’s top office.
During an interview Wednesday morning with Fox News, the Jacksonville area congressman was asked about Gillum’s surprise victory and spoke about not taking the race for granted.
"We've got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let's build off the success we've had on Gov. Scott," DeSantis said. "The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.”
As the comment ricocheted across social media- with members of Congress along with the organization CAIR and even Fox News denouncing them - the chairwoman of Florida's Democratic Party, Terrie Rizzo, was among those decrying it as racist.
"It's disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles," Rizzo said on Twitter.
DeSantis' campaign rejected that characterization.
"Ron DeSantis was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses," spokesman Stephen Lawson said. "To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left Democrat trying to stop our success."
DeSantis returned to Fox News in an attempt to clarify his remarks, telling host Sean Hannity that his comments had “zero to do with race.”
In an appearance on MSNBC's "Meet the Press Daily," Gillum told host Chuck Todd that the voters of Florida are "better than this."
"I believe the congressman can be better than this," Gillum said. "I regret that his mentor in politics is Donald Trump. But I do believe the voters of the state of Florida are going to reject the politics of division."
Curbelo, considered to be one of the more moderate members among congressional Republicans, added that he had plenty of experience working with both men, who he called “very eloquent, very talented, very articulate men.”
“They’re both men of my generation, something that’s exciting for me personally and I think for a lot of Floridians. And as younger elected officials they should both set an example of what a healthy debate can look like in our state and I don’t think Ron did a good job of that that yesterday,” Curbelo said.