White supremacists are unabashedly engaging in the politics of fear by targeting Andrew Gillum, the first African American nominee for Florida governor, with a series of racist robocalls intended for white voters.
In one automated phone call heard by two media organizations, a man pretends to be Gillum speaking in stereotypical Black dialect while jungle music plays during the call.
“Well, hello there,” the call begins as the sounds of drums and monkeys can be heard in the background. “I is Andrew Gillum.”
“We Negroes . . . done made mud huts while white folk waste a bunch of time making their home out of wood an’ stone.”
The man promises to pass a law that will allow African-Americans to avoid arrest “if the Negro know fo’ sho’ he didn’t do nothin’.”
These automated calls are designed to promote fear among white voters in Florida and encourage them to support Gillum’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has been endorsed by President Donald Trump and who supports Trump’s political ideology.
The recording ends with a man saying that the robocalls were paid for by the Road to Power, an Idaho-based website and podcast that promotes white supremacist and anti-Semitic content.
The robocalls are a clear indication of how racially incendiary the Florida governor’s race has become heading into the November mid-term elections. The campaign also underscores how Trump’s ongoing racial rhetoric has encouraged white supremacist groups to become more aggressive with promoting racist fear tactics like the robocalls.
DeSantis’ campaign spokesman, Stephen Lawson, called the robocalls “absolutely appalling and disgusting…and hopefully whoever is behind this has to answer for this despicable action.”
It may be too late.
“We can have a challenge between ideas and around what we think the people of the state of Florida deserve,” Gillum told CNN. “What I don’t want the race to turn into is a race of name-calling. I want to make sure that we don’t racialize and, frankly, weaponize race as a part of the process, which is why I have called on my opponent to really work to rise above some of these things.”
“I think what’s important is that Mr. DeSantis and obviously the president really try to go high on this thing,” Gillum told NBC. “We cannot afford to weaponize race and to go to the bottom of the barrel here. … I’m pleased to see them decry those robocalls, but it’s also important that Ron DeSantis take control and ownership of his own rhetoric and words.”
Gillum, 39, said that “people are taking their cues” from DeSantis and Trump.
“We saw in Charlottesville (that) it can lead to dangerous outcomes,” Gilum said, referencing last year’s deadly brawls between white nationalists and counterprotesters in Virginia.
The racist robocalls came days after several racial remarks by Republicans became public. Last week, during an appearance on Fox New, DeSantis was widely criticized for his racial comments about Gillum.
“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,” DeSantis said.
Gillum, meanwhile, faces an uphill battle: Republicans in Florida outnumber Democrats by more than 100,000. Only time will tell whether the racist strategies by bigots will be effective in the Florida governor’s race, but the white supremacist-backed robocalls have already backfired to some extent: Gillum has raised more than $2 million in the past four days.
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