MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Republican Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and his running mate Jeanette Nuñez visited Florida International Univesity on Thursday amid the latest controversy surrounding his campaign.
Politico.com says an activist who donated more than $20,000 to DeSantis’ campaign called President Obama a “F—- MUSLIM N—-” on Twitter.
Steven M. Alembik told the publication he wrote the tweet in anger and that he’s “absolutely not” a racist.
At FIU Thursday, Desantis condemned Alembik’s tweet.
“I totally disavow the tweet. I’m not surprised he did that. I’m not responsible for it, reject it. We’re focused on our message and we’re focusing on what we’re putting out,” Desantis said.
WATCH: DeSantis speaks with CBS4’s Jim DeFede about the tweet
The Gillum campaign released this statement Thursday afternoon: “Mayor Gillum’s campaign remains focused on bringing Florida together, affordable healthcare and protecting pre-existing conditions, investing in education, and cleaning up our waterways. It is up to Congressman DeSantis to explain to Floridians why he has chosen to associate himself with right-wing extremist groups and divisive individuals who want to pit us against one another.”
The young Republicans at FIU, who Desantis and running mate Jeanette Nunez were visiting, rejected the racist label some have put on Desantis.
“He’s pretty much concerned for the black students here on campus and for the Hispanic students here on campus, just as much as anyone else,” said FIU College Republicans President Andres Solorzano.
Just hours after Andrew Gillum made history by being the first African-American gubernatorial nominee in Florida to win a major party’s nomination allegations of racism were leveled at his opponent.
DeSantis, who is backed by President Donald Trump, made a controversial comment while appearing on Fox and Friends.
“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,” he said. The “monkey this up” remark drew criticism from some as being racist.
DeSantis made the comment while saying the state should build on the success of Governor Rick Scott.
Fox News addressed the remark a few hours later.
“We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement.”
DeSantis said calls that he is racist are absurd.
“It has zero to do with race,” he said. “It has to do with whether we want Florida…left wing policies that will devastate our state.”
Thursday Desantis repeated his denial that his “monkey this up” remark had anything to do with race.
“That’s been demagogued,” Desantis told CBS4’s Gary Nelson. “I didn’t want to drop an “F” bomb on national TV, but I really think socialist policies will mess up the state’s economic direction. There was zero racial about it. I was very clear about that.”
CBS4 News spoke with Andrew Gillum about the comment at the time.
“I think they’ve thrown away dog whistling and fully leaned into the bullhorn,” Gillum said.
He added that he knows exactly what DeSantis meant.
“I understand the signal he wanted to send but the truth is I think there are more of us out there who are common and decent who frankly want to be over the politics of division,” he said.
He wasn’t the only person echoing that sentiment.
“You can window dress it a hundred ways to Sunday as to what, trying to find a way to justify it for, but Floridians know what he’s talking about,” said former Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant.
The Republican candidate for governor was pushing his educational plan, which includes extending tax credits to help students attend college, and expanding vocational programs so that more young people can pursue careers in skilled trades.