Gay Republicans are abandoning Florida Gov. and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis (R) in droves after his rapid response team shared a bizarre video bragging about his reign of terror against the LGBTQ+ community.
The video opens with several clips of Donald Trump – DeSantis’s top primary opponent – expressing support for LGBTQ+ people and frames these comments as damning. Most of the comments are from before he was elected president in 2016. Then, the clip abruptly shifts to intense music and a photo of DeSantis shooting lasers out of his eyes, followed by snapshots of headlines about the anti-LGBTQ+ laws DeSantis has passed.
Her rhetoric is getting more combative, saying trans women are just faking it so that they can attack cis women in the bathroom.
The video proudly shares that DeSantis has been called “evil,” “dangerous,” “draconian,” and “public enemy no. 1” and even includes a clip accusing DeSantis of passing legislation “that literally threatens trans existence.” It also contains images of shirtless buff muscle men inter-spliced with these statements about how DeSantis is hurting LGBTQ+ people in his state.
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And despite DeSantis’s years-long crusade against LGBTQ+ people, this video, for whatever reason, seems to be the last straw for gay conservatives who had formerly viewed the Florida governor as a palatable alternative to Trump.
“Not only did DeSantis show that he is as anti-LGBTQ+ as the mainstream media has alleged, he made a mockery of any GOP candidate that shows an interest in LGBTQ+ rights, setting the whole party back decades,” wrote Yvonne Dean-Bailey, former Republican state legislator in New Hampshire, in an op-ed for the Daily Beast.
Dean-Bailey called the video “the most anti-LGBTQ+ ad in recent history,” adding that his actions “tarnish the image of the conservative movement.”
“As a lifelong conservative, I believe in the principles of limited government, personal responsibility, and individual liberties. Yet, DeSantis’ approach to LGBTQ+ issues goes against these very principles.”
Well-known conservative activist David Leatherwood also shared his disappointment over the ad on Twitter.
“I spent the last 7 years of my life working with Trump to make the GOP a more welcoming place for gays WHILE ALSO being anti-groomer, anti-woke and pro religious liberty. I’ve even worked WITH DeSantis on this agenda. This ad is a slap in the face, and makes any LGBT person supporting DeSantis look like an absolute idiot.”
Even disgraced gay Rep. George Santos (R-NY) got in on the anti-DeSantis action. Santos – who is currently facing 13 criminal charges – told The Hill he “used to think DeSantis was a great governor” but is now “starting to think differently.”
Santos has long been on team Trump but spoke out in favor of DeSantis’s Don’t Say Gay law. “I still stand by the bill in its nature,” he said, “but now it seems that it had a more perverse agenda behind it.”
“I’m starting to see [DeSantis] for what he is,” Santos added. “His rhetoric is to diminish and remove rights away from people like myself, and I can’t support that.”
The LGBTQ+ conservative group Log Cabin Republicans criticized the ad as “divisive and desperate.”
“Conservatives understand that we need to protect our kids, preserve women’s sports, safeguard women’s spaces and strengthen parental rights,” the group said in a statement, “but Ron DeSantis’ extreme rhetoric has just ventured into homophobic territory.”
“Ron DeSantis and his team can’t tell the difference between commonsense gays and the radical Left gays. He, sadly, sees them all the same. His naive policy positions are dangerous and politically stupid.”
And it isn’t just gay Republicans speaking out against the ad. DeSantis has been slammed and mocked from all angles.
The New Republic published a piece positing it could be “the weirdest ad in American political history.”
And out Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg pointed out the “strangeness of trying to prove your manhood by putting up a video that splices images of you in between oiled-up shirtless bodybuilders” before blasting DeSantis for focusing on bullying marginalized groups rather than helping Americans.
Christina Pushaw, the DeSantis campaign’s Rapid Response director, defended the video on Twitter after former Trump official Richard Grenell called it “undeniably homophobic.”
“Opposing the federal recognition of ‘Pride Month’ isn’t ‘homophobic.’ We wouldn’t support a month to celebrate straight people for sexual orientation, either… It’s unnecessary, divisive, pandering. In a country as vast and diverse as the USA, identity politics is poison.”
DeSantis is currently in a distant second place in 2024 Republican primary polling, getting an average of 21.5% support in recent polls, according to RealClearPolitics. Trump is first with an average of 52.4%.