A white supremacist group has paid for a series of racist telephone robocalls in Florida that refer to Andrew Gillum, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee who is vying to become the Sunshine State's first black governor, as a "negro" and a "monkey."
Florida voters who receive the call, audio of which was obtained by HuffPost, hear a man speaking in a minstrel dialect who identifies himself as the African-American politician.
"Well, hello, there. I is the negro Andrew Gillum, and I'll be askin' you to make me governor of this here state of Florida," the voice says. "My state opponent, who done call me monkey, is doin' a lot of hollerin' about how 'spensive my plans for health care be." Minstrel music plays in the background, and a chimpanzee noise is heard over the word "monkey."
The automated message goes on to mock Gillum's healthcare plan by claiming it would be cheap because he would allegedly give "chicken feet" to everyone in Florida rather than provide "the white man's" science-based medicine. The message also mentions that Jewish people are going to vote for him, because Jews are "the ones that been putting Negroes in charge over the white folk, just like they done after the Civil War."
The message ends with a disclaimer that says the calls are being sponsored by "The Road To Power," an Idaho-based white supremacist and anti-Semitic broadcasting outlet that distributed a similar call against Gillum in August, at which time he was running in the Democratic primary.
In that robocall, a man impersonating Gillum says, "We Negroes . . . done made mud huts while white folk waste a bunch of time making their home out of wood an' stone." As HuffPost notes, the white supremacist group has broadcasted racist robocalls in Virginia, Oregon, California, Idaho, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
A spokesperson for Gillum's campaign slammed the robocall as "disgusting" and "abhorrent."
"These disgusting, abhorrent robocalls represent a continuation of the ugliest, most divisive campaign in Florida's history," Gillum spokesman Geoff Burgan said in a statement. "We would hope that these calls – and the dangerous people who are behind them – are not given any more attention than they already have been."
The message, however, is not the first to target Gillum with racist and offensive language. After his opponent, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), emerged victorious in the Republican gubernatorial Florida primary, he went on TV and warned Florida voters not to "monkey this up" by voting for Gillum. The racially-charged descriptor has been historically used in the U.S. to animalize, degrade and dehumanize black people. DeSantis is a a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, who has received the president's enthusiastic support.
A DeSantis spokesperson said the campaign had "absolutely nothing to do with" the robocall "and joins those in condemning it." "In fact, we would encourage the Gillum campaign to join us in rooting out and exposing once and for all those who are behind this disgusting call," Stephen Lawson, communications director for the DeSantis campaign, said in a statement.
Gillum and DeSantis are in virtually in a dead heat. According to the results of a Florida Atlantic University poll published Tuesday, Gillum holds a four-point lead — likely voters in Florida favor him 41 percent to 37 percent. However, roughly 18 percent of those surveyed remain undecided in the race.