During an appearance on Fox News with Sandra Smith, DeSantis doled out backhand compliments to Gillum, calling him “an articulate spokesman” and saying he performed better than other candidates, just before arguing that Florida shouldn’t elect Gillum.
“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,” said DeSantis to Smith.
RELATED: Andrew Gillum, Democratic nominee for Florida governor
Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, is backed by Bernie Sanders and is campaigning on progressive policies. President Trump has expressed his support for DeSantis.
Not only did Congressman Ron DeSantis easily win the Republican Primary, but his opponent in November is his biggest dream....a failed Socialist Mayor named Andrew Gillum who has allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city. This is not what Florida wants or needs!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018
DeSantis’ remarks about “monkeying this up” sent Twitter into mass outrage:
Uh Ron DeSantis just said FL shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Andrew Gillum pic.twitter.com/nDPp3Hx7zc
— Steve Morris (@stevemorris__) August 29, 2018
12 hrs into the general election cycle, Ron DeSantis has already alluded to Andrew Gillum as a 'monkey.' This is the spirit of racial animus that fuels today's GOP. That Trump and his friends in politics use to energize a white base. It's baseless + un-American.
— Benji Gellman (@benjigellman) August 29, 2018
Today in racism: GOP candidate Ron DeSantis said Floridians shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Andrew Gillum. The sad truth: this will make him more appealing to segments of the population. #cretin
— Luisa Maria (@LitLuisa) August 29, 2018
They‘ve only been running against each other for 10 hours!!
GOP nominee #FLGov Ron DeSantis just said Florida shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Andrew Gillum the African American man who last night became the Dems nomineee.
Not racist at all.pic.twitter.com/Lk2W0glYxG
— Michelle Bhasin (@michellebhasin) August 29, 2018
What? Excuse me?
That Republican dog whistle is more like a megaphone lately.
GOP nominee for #FLGov Ron DeSantis just said Florida shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Andrew Gillum.
What. The. Holy. Balls.#WednesdayWisdom#TakeItBackpic.twitter.com/tUlyFQBUSs
— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) August 29, 2018
— Terrie Rizzo (@TerrieRizzo) August 29, 2018
“It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a statement after the interview.
Representatives for DeSantis did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.