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DeSantis doubles down on ‘homophobic’ anti-Trump ad: ‘Totally fair game’

Florida governor says former president was ‘pioneer in injecting gender ideology into the mainstream … he’s now campaigning saying the opposite’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 06 July 2023 14:54 BST
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Related video: Pete Buttigieg mocks Ron DeSantis over anti-LGBT+ video

Florida Governor and 2024 GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has doubled down on an ad widely blasted as homophobic.

The ad slammed his main rival for the Republican nomination, former President Donald Trump, for his past comments in support of the LGBT+ community.

Mr DeSantis said on Wednesday that Mr Trump’s comments were “totally fair game” amidst accusations of homophobia from Republicans and Democrats.

The ad, published on the DeSantis War Room Twitter account on the final day of Pride Month and subsequently shared by the governor’s campaign, shows Mr Trump saying that he was going to “do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens” and publically supporting trans women using women’s bathrooms and taking part in the Miss Universe contest which was then put up against the governor’s strict anti-LGBT+ record.

The governor appeared on the rightwing commentator Tomi Lahren’s YouTube programme on Wednesday night. The host asked Mr DeSantis about the ad and the widespread criticism of it as homophobic.

Mr DeSantis said it’s “totally fair game” to brand “Donald Trump as really being a pioneer in injecting gender ideology into the mainstream … because he’s now campaigning saying the opposite”.

The governor noted that Mr Trump has allowed trans women to take part in beauty pageants and seemingly going back and forth on his support for LGBT+ rights.

Mr DeSantis said that he, on the other hand, has “been very clear that we believe in protecting the rights of our girls” and that his campaign is “fighting back” against “gender ideology”.

Mr DeSantis added that it’s “an attack on women’s rights more broadly to say that gender is fluid, and I think it’s also an attack on truth itself”.

He said the movement for trans rights was a “social fad”.

The campaign ad was heavily criticised, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg saying that he can’t “understand the mentality of somebody who gets up in the morning, thinking that he’s going to prove his worth by competing over who can make life hardest for a hard-hit community, that is already so vulnerable in America”.

LGBT+ conservative group the Log Cabin Republicans also slammed the ad, saying that the message was “divisive and desperate”.

Former Republican candidate for California Governor Caitlyn Jenner said Mr DeSantis had “hit a new low” and New York Representative George Santos told The Hill that he “used to think [Mr DeSantis] was a great governor,” but that he’s now “starting to think differently”.

Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung told NBC News that the “DeSunctus campaign” is “desperate,” that Mr DeSantis is a “flailing candidate” and that his attempt to win the GOP nomination for president is “in its last throes of relevancy”.

As of Wednesday, FiveThirtyEight’s polling average shows that Mr Trump is ahead in the polls with 52 per cent support while Mr DeSantis is at 23.3 per cent.

The DeSantis ad may show Mr Trump expressing support for LGBT+ rights but he has recently been more hostile. He has compared gender-affirming care for minors to “child abuse” and he has said that if he wins the 2024 election, school officials would face “severe consequences” if they suggested “to a child that they could be trapped in the wrong body”.

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