Election 2024

Ron DeSantis defends his bizarre anti-LGBTQ+ ad that made him a universal laughingstock

Ron DeSantis shoots lasers out of his eyes in campaign video
Photo: Screenshot, Campaign Ad

2024 presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is defending himself after being universally mocked for sharing a bizarre video bragging about his reign of terror against the LGBTQ+ community.

Both Republicans and Democrats have eviscerated DeSantis for what many have called a desperate attempt by a failing campaign. Nevertheless, he is standing by the ad, which opens with several clips of Donald Trump – DeSantis’s top primary opponent – expressing support for LGBTQ+ people and frames these comments as damning. 

“Identifying Donald Trump as really being a pioneer in injecting gender ideology into the mainstream, where he was having men compete against women in his beauty pageants — I think that’s totally fair game,” DeSantis told conservative political commenter Tomi Lahren, “because he’s now campaigning saying the opposite.”

After the clips of Trump – most of which came from before he was elected president in 2016 – the video 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.

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.

And despite DeSantis’s years-long crusade against LGBTQ+ people, this video, for whatever reason, seems to have been the last straw for gay conservatives who had formerly viewed the Florida governor as a palatable alternative to Trump. Gay Republicans have been abandoning DeSantis in droves, but they aren’t the only ones horrified by the ad.

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.

In an appearance on MSNBC, branding expert Donny Deutsch called it “one of the darkest, most bizarre, twisted, deviant ads I’ve ever seen” after referring to DeSantis as “the prince of darkness.”

Christina Pushaw, the DeSantis campaign’s Rapid Response director, also 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.”

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung, however, called the video “a desperate DeSanctus campaign, with a flailing candidate, in its last throes of relevancy.”

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%.

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