Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor of Florida, is once again forced to respond to a racial controversy, this time surrounding the actions of campaign benefactor Steve Alembik.
Two weeks ago, Alembik, a prominent Boca Raton communications executive and supporter of President Donald Trump who has organized events at Mar-a-Lago, and who has given over $20,000 to DeSantis, threw a fit on Twitter and called former President Barack Obama the N-word.
Steven Alembik said he's not a racist, that he grew up in the 50s and guys just talked like this. But here he acknowledges he spoke in anger. He initially didn't want to delete the tweet, but realized he should pic.twitter.com/nqgR9IkuGa
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) September 20, 2018
In conversation with Politico, Alembik denied being a racist, complaining that it is just the way people talked when he was a kid and that black people can still say it. "So somebody like Chris Rock can get up onstage and use the word and there’s no problem? But some white guy says it and he’s a racist? Really?"
On Wednesday, DeSantis initially tried to wave away any responsibility to comment, telling reporters, "We're not playing this game of any single person who says something on social media or does this or that, I can't do that." Later, however, his spokesman Stephen Lawson said, "We've said it before, we'll say it again: we adamantly denounce this sort of disgusting rhetoric."
The campaign has also noted that the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee returned $11,000 in political contributions. However, Alembik says that he himself asked for the refund because he had used the wrong bank account — and the campaign appears to be keeping another $2,000 in contributions from this year.
The list of racial controversies DeSantis has had to respond to has grown rapidly.
Immediately after winning the nomination in August, he drew outrage for saying Florida should not "monkey this up" by electing Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum, the first African-American major party nominee for governor in Florida history. Soon after, he was outed as an administrator of a racist conspiracy theory group on Facebook, which he promptly withdrew from, and faced questions over his speeches at events hosted by anti-immigrant extremists and hate groups.
There is only so much racism that can happen around a candidate without the candidate bearing some responsibility for the company he keeps.