Americans across the country were horrified this past weekend when neo-Nazis held a rally in Orlando, Florida. The demonstrators chanted violently antisemitic phrases like, "The Jew is the devil" and promoted centuries-old antisemitic conspiracy theories that Jews murder children and drink their blood.
The demonstration was organized by the neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Movement and livestreamed on their website. The group also chanted anti-Black phrases and intends to hold more events, including a convention in Washington state this spring.
Videos and photos of the demonstration soon circulated online.
Social media users called on Florida's far-right governor, Ron DeSantis, to condemn the Nazi demonstrators, but a response from DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw left a lot to be desired.
Pushaw wrote in a now-deleted tweet:
"Do we even know they're Nazis? Or is this a stunt like the 'white nationalists' who crashed the Youngkin rally in Charlottesville and turned out to be Dem staffers? I trust Florida law enforcement to investigate and am awaiting their conclusions.
Pushaw was alluding to a scandal that occurred shortly before the Virginia gubernatorial election that eventually saw Republican Glenn Youngkin emerge as the winner. Videos of supposed white nationalists standing guard at a Youngkin event went viral, but they were later revealed to be affiliated with the anti-Trump Republican group, The Lincoln Project. They weren't "Dem staffers" as Pushaw claimed.
She later walked back her comments, writing:
"I should not have commented on this in a way that sounded flippant or dismissive. ... By way of explanation, not justification - I was reacting to a deluge of bad faith attacks from Dems saying that Governor DeSantis caused this protest."
People were disgusted at the Pushaw floating the idea that people waving swastikas might not be Nazis.
And they were fed up with DeSantis pursuing right-wing agendas while his spokespeople downplayed Nazism.
In a later statement, Pushaw claimed that, "Governor DeSantis has always condemned hate. He has taken an unequivocal and consistent stand against antisemitism throughout his entire political career."