What will it take for Ron DeSantis to denounced all antisemitic incidents?
If it’s coming from the left, the governor is outspoken, in particular about Jewish Americans frightened by threats on college campuses. When antisemitism comes from the far corners of the right, DeSantis appears inconvenienced when asked for his reaction.
When asked this week about Elon Musk’s endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory, DeSantis wrapped himself into a pretzel to avoid giving a straight answer on a controversy that caused companies such as Apple and IBM to cut advertising spending on Musk’s social media platform X, formerly Twitter. This looks like a reprise of DeSantis’ inability to rebuke neo-Nazis who marched near Orlando last year.
Musk agreed with a post that accused Jewish people facing bigotry in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks in Israel of “pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”
“I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest [expletive] now about western Jewish populations coming to the disturbing realization that those hordes of minorities that support flooding their country don’t exactly like them too much” the post read.
Musk replied: “You have said the actual truth.”
DeSantis told CNN anchor Jake Tapper on Sunday he hadn’t seen Musk’s comment, but “Elon has had a target on his back ever since he purchased Twitter because I think he’s taking it into direction that a lot of people who are used to controlling the narrative don’t like.”
Tapper then explained the post, which makes reference to a conspiracy theory that Jews are behind an effort to replace white Americans with minorities. Known as the Replacement Theory, it fueled the man who killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
Since Musk purchased X with the promise to ease content moderation, the site has experienced a spike in hateful speech and misinformation, the New York Times reported. English-language antisemitic posts more than doubled under Musk’s watch, according to a study by the Institute of Strategic Dialogue.
For DeSantis to defend Musk while boasting about “major legislation in Florida to combat antisemitism on college campuses” is the highest form of hypocrisy.
Hiding behind the shield of free speech, Musk enables and elevates hate. But he has served DeSantis’ anti-woke agenda well. The governor even launched his presidential campaign on X, a botched unveiling filled with technical glitches.
We don’t believe DeSantis doesn’t see antisemitism as a problem. He has, after all, signed legislation to fight the issue and has been a longtime ally of Israel. But DeSantis’ stronger instincts are deep partisanship and division, even if it’s to the detriment of speaking up against bigotry that’s been on the rise since the Oct. 7 attacks.
After Tapper pressed him, DeSantis said antisemitism is “wrong no matter what, and I don’t think that we’ve seen antisemitism this bad in the world, probably since the Second World War.”
The problem is, under DeSantis’ logic, antisemitism isn’t as bad when it comes from his side of the aisle.
“On the left, [antisemitism] tends to be attached to some major institutional power, like some of our most august universities, whereas I think, on the right, it tends to be, you know, more fringe voices that are doing it,” DeSantis said.
Musk, considered the wealthiest person in the world, has almost 164 million followers on X. He’s far from fringe. So is the rapper Ye — Kanye West — who went on an antisemitic tirade on X last year, or the white supremacists who marched in the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying burning torches and shouting “Jews will not replace us.”
To be clear, the right isn’t the only one with a problem. Some far-left groups have expressed support for Hamas, and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a prominent progressive from Michigan, recently defended the use of a phrase also used by Hamas that many Jews consider a call for Israel’s destruction.
In this polarized country, it’s tempting to wield accusations of bigotry to attack political opponents. Politicians must speak out when hatred is coming from their side, as more than 20 congressional Democrats — four from South Florida — did when they voted with Republicans to censure Tlaib over her remarks.
By contrast, DeSantis squandered what should have been a softball question from CNN. He chose instead to rationalize what should never be rationalized. For an aspiring president, it shouldn’t be so difficult to resolutely denounce what is wrong.
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