Even in key states like Florida, gubernatorial debates are not often the source of national attention. But when Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum went after his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis’ associations with racists at a debate on Wednesday, a clip of the moment racked up more than 4 million views.
“My grandmother used to say, ‘A hit dog will holler,’ and it hollered through this room,” Gillum said, referencing a 19th century proverb that suggests that a defensive response to a statement indicates guilt. “Mr. DeSantis has spoken. First of all, he’s got neo-Nazis helping him out in this state. He has spoken at racist conferences. He accepted a contribution and would not return it from someone who referred to the former president of the United States as a Muslim n—–. When asked to return that money, he said no. He’s using that money to now fund negative ads. Now, I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”
The heated moment quickly began making the online rounds after Gillum tweeted it out on Wednesday, with some pointing out that politicians are often hesitant to directly suggest that their opponents are racist or complicit with racism.
U.S. Rep. DeSantis is best known around the country for his own viral moment, an ad he aired during the Republican primary race for governor in which he encouraged his daughter to, “Build the wall,” with toy blocks and read President Donald Trump’s book The Art of the Deal aloud to his infant son.
A Siena College/New York Times poll taken Oct. 23-24 showed Gillum with an eight-point lead over DeSantis among likely voters.