Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fiercely defended himself on Sunday from attacks from fellow GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.
The latest beef between the two presidential contenders started Thursday when Ramaswamy posted a tweet slamming the governor for trying to shut down pro-Palestinian student groups on Florida’s college campuses.
“It’s a shameful political ploy for @RonDeSantis to ban the existence of pro-Palestinian student groups at Florida universities. It’s unconstitutional. It’s utter hypocrisy for someone who railed against left-wing cancel culture,” he wrote.
“Conservatives should be allowed to criticize BLM or vaccine mandates, and crazy liberals should be able to criticize Israel or the West even if they’re dead wrong about it,” he added.
Free speech doesn’t just protect the ideas we love. It protects the ideas we hate. The idiotic college “pro-Palestine” student groups are dead wrong to excuse genocidal attacks against Jews and spout disgusting anti-semitism, but one of the things that makes us different from… pic.twitter.com/knDsQsXbKJ
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) October 26, 2023
Three days later on NBC, “Meet the Press” host Kristen Welker confronted DeSantis about this very tweet, asking him, “What is your response to Mr. Ramaswamy?”
The governor replied by arguing that there’s a difference between cancel culture, which he vehemently opposes, and what he’s doing to pro-Palestinian college student groups, which is going after people who are providing support to a terrorist organization.
“This is not cancel culture. This group, they themselves said in the aftermath of the Hamas attack that they don’t just stand in solidarity, that they are part of this Hamas movement. And so, yeah, you have a right to go out and demonstrate, but you can’t provide material support to terrorism. They’ve linked themselves to Hamas,” he said.
“And so, we absolutely decertify them. They should not get one red cent of taxpayer dollars. And we also have strong laws in Florida against fundraising for groups like Hamas. And we are enforcing those vigorously. That’s not a First Amendment issue. That’s a material support to terrorism issue,” he added.
But Welker was unconvinced.
“Yeah, just to be clear, you’re citing the Florida law that says one cannot give material aid or resources to a terrorist organization. Do you have any support that they’re actually doing that?” she pressed.
In response, DeSantis pointed to the student groups’ very own words.
“Their own words are saying they’re part of this organization, that they don’t just stand in solidarity, that they don’t just support what they did, but that this is their movement too. So, once you hitch your wagon to a group like Hamas, that takes you out of the realm of normal activity, and that’s something that we’re going to take action against. So, we believe we’re totally justified within the law,” he said.
“And I think things like this have been litigated time and again. But here’s the, here’s the broader point. You know, are we just going to commit suicide as a country and let groups metastasize who are openly siding with brutal terrorist organizations? I don’t think that’s a recipe for a successful country. I want to have a country where we’re protected from that stuff. So I think we made the right decision. I stand by it 100%,” he added.
The “Meet the Press” interview came five days after the governor ordered Florida’s colleges to shut down and ban the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group.
“State university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues wrote to university presidents Tuesday at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ urging, directing them to disband chapters of SJP. He quoted the national group’s declaration that ‘Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement,'” the Associated Press reported.
“It is a felony under Florida law to ‘knowingly provide material support … to a designated foreign terrorist organization,'” Rodrigues reportedly wrote.
Chancellor Ray Rodrigues sends stern deactivate letter to School student groups State University System of Florida. Time for other Universities to deactivate these student racist groups that radicalize and morally bankrupt upper learning. #FSU #FSUTwitter pic.twitter.com/pRn9aYN67r
— An NBA and NFL cowgirl (@Eh_Canadaian) October 25, 2023
That being said, SJP is reportedly an old group that’s been operating for decades. As such, it has allies, including those at Palestine Legal, a group that the AP notes “provides legal support for pro-Palestinian groups.”
“Florida, particularly under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, has been actively undermining education, freedom of speech and social justice movements, including by banning anti-racist courses and trying to criminalize protests,” the group said in a statement to the AP.
“It is not surprising that this egregious move to silence the student movement for Palestinian rights is being pursued under DeSantis,” the group added.
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