Bryan Griffin, press secretary for the DeSantis campaign, stated that Mr. DeSantis had demonstrated his commitment to protecting both Israel and American Jews through his actions and referred to him as “a leader who acts and delivers.” No comments were made regarding the conversations with the donors.
However, State Representative Randy Fine, one of Mr. DeSantis’s closest Jewish allies, broke ties with the Florida governor this week and switched his endorsement to Mr. Trump. Mr. Fine expressed his disappointment in Mr. DeSantis’s failure to publicly address antisemitism, which deeply saddened him. In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Fine criticized Mr. DeSantis’s “lack of leadership” following the neo-Nazi marches.
Mr. Fine, who is the only Jewish Republican in the State Legislature and personally confronted a neo-Nazi protester earlier this month, emphasized the significance of condemning Nazis and expressed concerns for the Jewish community, stating, “It’s important, because Jews are scared.” He viewed the governor’s silence as both “stubborn” and “wrong.”
When questioned by a reporter, Mr. DeSantis defended himself by referring to the neo-Nazi demonstrators as “knuckleheads” and questioned why he should draw attention to their actions, stating, “I think some of them are fake.” He also accused Mr. Fine, who is currently running for the State Senate, of endorsing Mr. Trump out of political motives.
In contrast, both Republican Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio have condemned neo-Nazi activities in Florida. Mr. Rubio took to social media to express his condemnation, referring to antisemitism as a “dangerous poison.”
Many leaders of prominent Jewish groups agreed with Mr. Rubio’s viewpoint. Sarah Emmons, the Florida regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, emphasized the importance of public officials denouncing antisemitism and hate in all forms, regardless of their political affiliation.
Both the governor’s office and his presidential campaign highlighted his response to the incidents through legislative action, such as signing bills to strengthen religious anti-discrimination protections, increase penalties for antisemitic harassment, and provide security for Jewish day schools. The governor has also instructed state law enforcement agencies to take action against neo-Nazis engaging in illegal demonstrations.
While acknowledging the disturbing encounter neo-Nazi protesters had with Rabbi Yosef Konikov in February, Mr. Konikov supported the governor’s decision not to publicly address the incident further. He explained that he did not want the protesters to gain more attention and mentioned that the governor’s office had privately offered their support.
Mr. DeSantis’s Jewish supporters believe that his legislative agenda and unwavering support for Israel clearly showcase his stance on protecting the Jewish community.