Ron DeSantis snaps at critic who blamed him for racist Jacksonville shooting and claimed his policies let guns ‘fill the streets’
- DeSantis had a heated exchange at Jacksonville press conference on Thursday
- Man in the audience blamed his policies for August 26 shooting that killed three
- ‘That is such nonsense,’ DeSantis fired back as the man was led out
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis excoriated an unidentified critic on Thursday, after the man blamed his policies for the racist shooting spree that left three black people dead in Jacksonville last month.
The heated exchange unfolded at an Irish pub in Jacksonville, where DeSantis was holding a press conference highlighting his vow not to close schools or businesses as COVID-19 cases rise.
When DeSantis asked for questions from the press, an unidentified man spoke out saying the governor ‘allowed weapons to fill the street’ and fall into the hands of ‘immature, hateful people that have caused the deaths of the people who were murdered a few weeks ago.’
‘I did not allow anything with that,’ fired back DeSantis, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination. ‘I’m not going to let you accuse me of committing criminal activity. I’m not going to take that.’
‘You have allowed people to hunt people like me,’ continued the audience member, who is black, prompting DeSantis to respond: ‘Oh, that is nonsense. That is such nonsense.’
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The man was escorted from the room as DeSantis continued to speak, touting his record on public safety and insisting his policies had brought crime down.
It was unclear from footage of the event published by NBC News whether the man criticizing DeSantis was representing a particular organization or news outlet, or was perhaps a private citizen who somehow got into the press conference.
The heated exchange was in reference to the August 26 shooting in which a white gunman with swastikas painted on his rifle killed three black people at a Dollar General store.
Shortly before the shooting, the gunman had been confronted and turned away by a security guard at nearby Edward Waters University, a historically black school. The shooter died by suicide after barricading himself from cops.
The shooting reignited criticisms of DeSantis from parts of Florida’s black community, after the NAACP issued a ‘travel ban’ for the state, saying the governor’s ‘anti-woke’ policies created a culture of ‘open hostility towards African Americans and people of color.’
Some black community leaders criticized DeSantis for not explicitly describing the killer as a racist at a vigil for the Jacksonville shooting victims.
DeSantis was booed at the vigil, where he called the shooter ‘a major-league scumbag’ and said, ‘We are not going to let people be targeted based on their race.’
‘Ron DeSantis has condemned these racially motivated murders repeatedly in the strongest language possible,’ a DeSantis campaign spokesman told the AP following the vigil, adding, ‘He will not tolerate racial hatred or violence in Florida.’
Following Thursday’s press conference, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who is black, returned to the podium to speak out in the governor’s defense.
Ladapo, who is black, called the unidentified critic ‘crazy’ and insisted that DeSantis is ‘a good man’.
‘It’s terrible that people take advantage of the fact that he [DeSantis] is a different color from the poor victims of that tragedy to try and tie him into something. It’s immoral,’ he said.
The purpose of the press conference was to highlight DeSantis’ vow not to bring back mask mandates or other restrictions, as COVID cases begin to tick up nationally.
Ladapo, his surgeon general, also warned against getting the latest COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to be available this month.
‘There are a lot of red flags,’ he said, arguing there was no reason to get the updated vaccine.
Ladapo’s previous warnings against COVID-19 vaccines drew a public letter from federal health agencies saying his claims were harmful to the public.