Politics

Vocal on Israel, DeSantis Is Challenged on His Silence on Neo-Nazis in Florida

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Bryan Griffin, press secretary for the DeSantis marketing campaign, mentioned that Mr. DeSantis had proven his dedication to defending each Israel and American Jews via his actions, calling him “a pacesetter who acts and delivers.” He didn’t touch upon the conversations with the donors.

This week, nonetheless, one in every of Mr. DeSantis’s closest Jewish allies, State Consultant Randy High-quality, broke with the Florida governor and switched his endorsement to Mr. Trump. Mr. High-quality wrote in an opinion column that Mr. DeSantis’s failure to confront antisemitism extra publicly had “damaged my coronary heart.” In an interview with The New York Instances, he mentioned he had been dismayed by Mr. DeSantis’s “lack of management” after the neo-Nazi marches.

“Look, should you can’t say Nazis are unhealthy, which ought to be the best factor on the earth to say, then what are you doing?” mentioned Mr. High-quality, who’s the one Jewish Republican within the State Legislature and was publicly confronted by a neo-Nazi protester this month. “It’s vital, as a result of Jews are scared.”

Mr. High-quality mentioned the governor’s silence was each “cussed” and “unsuitable.”

In response to a reporter’s query this week, Mr. DeSantis defended himself, calling the neo-Nazi demonstrators “knuckleheads” and asking why he would “elevate that nonsense” by drawing consideration to them.

“I believe a few of them are pretend,” the governor mentioned at a marketing campaign cease in New Hampshire. “I believe they’re simply making an attempt to get media clicks.”

He additionally accused Mr. High-quality, who’s working for the State Senate, of enjoying “pure politics” together with his endorsement.

In distinction to Mr. DeSantis, Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, each Republicans, have condemned neo-Nazi actions in Florida.

After one incident final 12 months, Mr. Rubio wrote on social media that antisemitism was a “harmful poison” that have to be condemned “all over the place & each time, even when it’s only a small group of consideration craving losers” — a seeming rebuke of Mr. DeSantis.

Many leaders of distinguished Jewish teams agreed with Mr. Rubio’s evaluation. Sarah Emmons, the Florida regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, informed The Instances this week that “public officers ought to name out antisemitism and hate in all varieties throughout the political spectrum, irrespective of the supply.”

Each the governor’s workplace and his presidential marketing campaign mentioned he had responded to the incidents with deeds moderately than phrases, pointing to laws he has signed that bolstered non secular anti-discrimination protections in faculties, elevated penalties for antisemitic harassment and financed safety at Jewish day faculties. The governor has additionally directed state legislation enforcement companies to pursue neo-Nazis for unlawful demonstrations.

“Motion to guard the Jewish group and maintain those that break the legislation accountable is extra vital to the Governor than giving these demonstrators the wall-to-wall protection they (and the media) crave,” Jeremy Redfern, the press secretary within the governor’s workplace, mentioned in a press release.

In a single high-profile antisemitic incident that passed off in February, Rabbi Yosef Konikov was surrounded by neo-Nazi protesters as he tried to drive from the Chabad he leads in Orlando. The lads shouted slurs and threats. Mr. Konikov described the encounter — which was caught on video and was not his first run-in with the group, he mentioned — as “disturbing.”

However he mentioned he believed the governor had been proper to not communicate publicly about what occurred.

“I don’t need these guys to get extra protection than they’re already getting,” defined Mr. Konikov, who mentioned he has attended Hanukkah celebrations on the governor’s mansion. He additionally mentioned that Mr. DeSantis’s workplace had known as him privately to supply help.

Mr. DeSantis’s Jewish supporters consider the governor has made it abundantly clear the place he stands via his legislative agenda and his full-throated backing of Israel.