Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday defended his record standing up for Florida’s Jewish community after a Republican lawmaker in his home state flipped his endorsement to former President Donald Trump and accused the governor of failing to address antisemitism.
Rep. Randy Fine, the lone Jewish Republican elected to the Florida legislature, said when the state experienced antisemitic demonstrations over the past 18 months, DeSantis “said almost nothing. And worse, he did almost nothing.”
“The past two weeks have made me realize our choice as Jews is simple,” Fine wrote in an op-ed published by the Washington Times. “We can vote for the Governor who says all the right things or we can vote for the President who actually does them. When it comes to action, Donald Trump has never ever let us down.”
While campaigning in New Hampshire, DeSantis described Fine’s remarks as “pure politics” and suggested the Republican representative was lashing out because he wasn’t named president of Florida Atlantic University. A search committee for the university named in July three finalists for the post and Fine was not one of them.
Days later, the chancellor of the state university suspended the search. In August, Fine told a local television station he was asked to apply for the job by DeSantis, leading some to raise concerns that DeSantis or his allies had intervened to stop the search so Fine could be installed. However, the job remains vacant.
“He didn’t get it. Now, he’s running for (state) Senate. He’s trying to ingratiate himself; totally ridiculous,” DeSantis said. “What other governor has rescued people from Israel?”
Pressed on why he did not explicitly condemn neo-Nazi marches in Central Florida or antisemitic displays in Jacksonville in recent years like other Florida Republicans, DeSantis said he didn’t want to “elevate” their “nonsense.” DeSantis also suggested, as he did in the aftermath of neo-Nazi marches near Orlando, that they were trying to “smear” him.
“When they do things, where like, there’ll be four knuckleheads, and then people are like making, why would you want to elevate it? Sometimes they’ll bring my stuff, which they’re not obviously my supporters, they’re doing that to try to smear me. Why would I want to elevate that nonsense?” DeSantis told reporters.
DeSantis also claimed that some of the people participating in the neo-Nazi marches are fake and sought to distinguish those marches from recent pro-Palestinian protests – which he has publicly and fiercely condemned.
“You have these people that are just marginal in society. I think some of them are fake. I think they’re trying to just get, get media clicks. So, that’s totally different than going out and having massive demonstrations of people celebrating the explicit murder of Jews, which is what’s happened in this country now. And so that’s something you just can’t ignore,” he added.
Also on Tuesday, DeSantis and the State University System ordered two Florida universities to deactivate their chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. Chancellor Ray Rodrigues claimed in a memo to schools that the national chapter supports terrorism. CNN has reached out to the schools – the University of Florida and the University of South Florida – and the national SJP chapter for comment.
Fine responded on X by chiding DeSantis. “Why did it take me endorsing @realDonaldTrump to get you to take action?”
Fine was previously listed along with nearly 100 other Florida lawmakers who had endorsed DeSantis and had previously worked closely with the Republican governor on several priorities, including the effort to strip Disney of its special taxing district.
In the op-ed, Fine wrote, “Every piece of legislation you hear him talk about regarding Jewish issues is one I wrote. I love his words. His actions have broken my heart.”
DeSantis spokesperson Bryan Griffin said in a statement to CNN: “This is nothing more than shameful political theater at a time when Ron DeSantis is leading the charge to support Israel. From working to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, to combatting antisemitism throughout Florida and its schools, to securing funding for security at Jewish schools and synagogues, there’s never been a more pro-Israel Governor.”
This story has been updated with additional information.
Jamiel Lynch contributed to this story.
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