Wednesday, 17 October 2018

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C CAIR-FL In The News

Frustrated over racial controversies, DeSantis claims Gillum has ‘anti-Semites around him’

By Marc Caputo, For Politico, On 26 September 2018, Read Original

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Ron DeSantis, frustrated with questions about racists and accused bigots backing him, went on the counterattack Monday and said that his Democratic opponent in the Florida governor’s race has “anti-Semites around him.”

DeSantis focused his criticisms on two groups: Dream Defenders, a minority empowerment group that Andrew Gillum praised during the Democratic primary for governor, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose members Gillum met with as mayor of Tallahassee in 2016.

“I can find anti-Semites around him,” DeSantis said in a video clip of an exchange with reporters circulated by his campaign. “But it's almost like 'we don't want to discuss that.’”

CAIR and the Dream Defenders deny being anti-Semitic, but both acknowledge being strong critics of Israel. Gillum’s campaign, which also denies associating with anti-Semites, said DeSantis is trying to change the subject away from his own campaign’s struggles.

“I do think it is interesting that racists tend to align themselves with Mr. DeSantis, and I think he’s gotta deal with why it is that, repeatedly, over the course of his campaign trail, he’s having to explain that relationship and those friendships and the language that not only he himself has used but also the people that are around him,” Gillum said Friday when asked about DeSantis.

The dust-up is the latest racial controversy to roil the Florida governor's race, one of the most closely watched in the country, pitting the President Donald Trump-backed DeSantis against the state Democratic Party’s most liberal nominee ever. The specter of Trump, Gillum’s unexpected win and the racial controversies in the race to lead the country’s biggest swing state have given the race a national profile like none other in the past.

DeSantis' campaign has been in a defensive crouch ever since he won the Aug. 28 primary and, the following day, used the phrase “monkey this up” in reference to the economic plans of Gillum, the Florida Democratic Party’s first African-American nominee. Democrats accused him of bigotry; DeSantis denied it.

On Monday, DeSantis said he had to push back on the "attempt to create a narrative” about him when a reporter asked him about a Sunday rally of his in Sarasota that was attended by a few members of the group called the “Proud Boys.” The liberal Southern Poverty Law Center has called the Proud Boys a hate group, and their members have had their accounts suspended by Twitter for alleged hate speech. Their presence at the rally, which DeSantis’ campaign said he didn’t condone, came days after DeSantis disavowed a donor who wrote “F--- THE MUSLIM N-----” on Twitter in relation to former President Barack Obama.

The donor, Steve Alembik, secured DeSantis a speaking slot in February at a pro-Israel group’s gala held at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.

DeSantis demanded to know why reporters weren't asking about CAIR.

"Have you asked Andrew Gillum why he had CAIR — the Council of American-Islamic Relations — to Tallahassee in 2016?" DeSantis asked. "He spoke to welcome them. They were an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing trial — the largest terror-financing trial in history. He welcomed them. He thanked them for what they were doing.”

In response, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said DeSantis was talking “nonsense” and pointed to a Washington Post fact report that said the organization was roped into the terror trial by the federal government to be a witness in the case, not because the group was complicit in any crimes.

Hooper also said it was ironic that DeSantis was attacking the group for being mentioned in an old federal trial when numerous associates of the president have pleaded guilty to federal crimes in an investigation that DeSantis has fought.

“While the president is directly connected to felonious actions, we’re not,” Hooper said, adding that a number of pro-Muslim groups were in Tallahassee to protest 2016 legislation that punished anti-Israel boycotters. Gillum didn’t bring the groups to Tallahassee.

While CAIR and Dream Defenders support boycotts of Israel, Gillum actually supports the legislation cracking down on the boycotts, Orlando Weekly reportedearlier this month. DeSantis also appeared to stretch the truth in calling CAIR out for its tactics in opposing the Israel-supporting legislation that passed the Florida Legislature in 2016.

“The CAIR people got kicked out of the House committees, because they were saying all this anti-Semitic stuff,” DeSantis said. “I don't see the media going after Andrew Gillum.”

Video of the House committee in question, however, shows that other opponents of the legislation were removed from the House State Affairs Committee for interrupting the meeting by chanting, “not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel's crimes!” The CAIR spokeswoman who opposed the legislation in committee was not among the group of demonstrators who were removed for chanting.

DeSantis said Gillum’s association with the Dream Defenders group was also problematic.

"They support boycotting Israel. They equate Israel to an apartheid state,” DeSantis said.

The liberal-leaning group’s statements about Israel concerning Palestinians’ “right to return to the land that has been seized and stolen for the past 70 years” has caused rifts between African-American and Jewish Democrats in the past, but Dream Defenders said it is advocating for social justice, not against Jewish people.

Dream Defenders spokeswoman Nailah Summers accused DeSantis of trying to “distract Floridians” from his conservative agenda by “picking on a group of young, working Floridians who ... work to make people’s lives better and support things like quality public education, healthcare for all, higher minimum wages, affordable housing for all, criminal justice reform, the environment and so on.”

But to DeSantis, the failure of reporters to cover the Dream Defenders in-depth was an example of Gillum getting a “zone of protection“ from the press.

“So it's a double standard. It's an attempt to create a narrative. If I have a crowd with 500 people, how the hell am I supposed to know who's in the crowd?“ he said. “You do not do that with Democrats. You do not look to find the most radical person in the Democrat audience. I'd like you to start doing that.”

Gillum’s campaign, meanwhile, noted that DeSantis had spoken at a 2017 “Restoration Weekend” conference attended by two other conservative speakers who had been accused of anti-Semitic remarks and leanings.

And Republicans have revived an attack on Gillum’s running mate, Chris King, that briefly surfaced on the Democratic primary campaign trail.

King, a liberal evangelical, had complained that his Christian faith was held against him in 1999 when he lost a campaign for Harvard student president and complained he was “nailed to the cross” by the college newspaper where, he said, “most of the editorial staff that was so hard on me, the vast majority were Jewish.”

“I recognize that everything in your life is fair game,” King, explaining his remarks, said this summer on the Strange Days Podcast in Miami. “The comment that I made there I’ve said was wrong. It hurt feelings. And I was sorry about making that comment 20 years ago. It was certainly not reflective then or now of my belief in diversity. I was a progressive Democrat then. I actually got beat by, I think, the chairman of the Republican club at Harvard, which is unfortunate.”