A campaign Twitter account for Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential bid is being criticized for marking the end of Pride Month on Friday by sharing a video slamming Republican rival Donald Trump’s previous promise to protect LGBTQ rights.
DeSantis War Room – the Florida governor’s “Rapid Response” campaign account – reposted the video from another Twitter account named “Proud Elephant,” with the caption, “To wrap up ‘Pride Month,’ let’s hear from the politician who did more than any other Republican to celebrate it…”
The video paints the former president as sympathetic toward transgender rights and features a clip from his acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican convention – just over a month after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando – in which he says, “I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens.”
The video also features other clips of Trump allegedly expressing support for LGBTQ rights, such as an openness to allowing Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender woman, to use the bathroom of her choice at Trump Tower and to including transgender women in Miss Universe, a beauty pageant he previously owned.
The video contrasts DeSantis with Trump, using images depicting recent measures enacted by DeSantis that have curbed LGBTQ protections in the state.
CNN has not independently verified the authenticity of all the clips used in the video.
As CNN previously reported, years before he ran for president, Trump welcomed and praised the inclusion of transgender women in the Miss Universe pageant. But as he looks to secure the 2024 Republican nomination, the former president has promised to “ban” transgender athletes from playing on women’s sports teams and to make gender-affirming surgery for minors illegal if he returns to the White House.
Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung slammed the video, telling CNN that it showed “a desperate campaign in its last throes of relevancy.” Trump is widely seen as the polling front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination, despite his legal troubles, with DeSantis a distant second.
Log Cabin Republicans, a group that represents LGBTQ conservatives, called the video “divisive and desperate.”
“Conservatives understand that we need to protect our kids, preserve women’s sports, safeguard women’s spaces and strengthen parental rights, but Ron DeSantis’ extreme rhetoric has just ventured into homophobic territory,” the group said in a statement.
Charles Moran, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, told CNN on Sunday that he wants an explanation or acknowledgment from the DeSantis campaign that the video was “the wrong message.”
“It’s tone deaf. It’s not representative of where the Republican Party is or the conservative movement, and their attacks are totally misplaced,” said Moran, a delegate for Trump in 2016 and 2020 from California, who praised the former president for creating “an inclusive place for gay Republicans.”
He added he wants to see the DeSantis campaign make an effort to reach out to LGBT voters “to let them know that there is a place in their campaign.”
And while Moran doesn’t think voters will “make up their minds on this one incident,” he noted the campaign doesn’t appear to be backing away from the line of messaging in the video.
“I’m not gonna give up on Ron DeSantis. But I mean, they’re gonna have to meet us halfway somewhere. And right now, I’m not seeing any, any attempt,” Moran added.
The DeSantis campaign did not immediately respond to request for comment on Moran’s call to provide an explanation or acknowledgment.
In response to the online criticism, Christina Pushaw, the rapid response director for the DeSantis War Room Twitter account, said on Friday that Pride Month was “unnecessary, divisive, pandering.”
“Opposing the federal recognition of ‘Pride Month’ isn’t homophobic,” Pushaw said in a tweet. “We wouldn’t support a month to celebrate straight people for sexual orientation, either…”
Pride Month was first recognized by President Bill Clinton in 1999 in commemoration of the Stonewall riots of late June 1969, which many point to as the start of the modern gay rights movement. In 2017, Trump broke with recent precedent by not recognizing the month. The Trump White House did recognize Pride Month in 2019.
The sharing of the video highlights a strategy adopted by the DeSantis campaign to establish the governor as a more conservative alternative to Trump on several issues, including LGBTQ rights, abortion, immigration and guns. On the campaign trail, the governor frequently touts several measures he has signed into law in Florida to make his case.
Those measures include a restriction on using pronouns in public schools that don’t match the sex on a person’s birth certificate and a ban on transgender people from using a government building’s bathroom or changing room that matches their gender identity. DeSantis also led an effort to restrict sexual orientation and gender identity from being taught in all K-12 schools – an extension of the controversial 2022 Parental Rights in Education law dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by its critics, which prohibited such instruction through third grade. These measures went into effect July 1.
Florida currently has a near-total 15-week abortion ban, but DeSantis in April signed a more restrictive 6-week abortion ban that would go into effect if the state Supreme Court overturns its previous precedent as it considers legal challenges to the 15-week ban. Trump has called the six-week abortion ban “too harsh” and has also privately blamed abortion hard-liners for the GOP’s lackluster 2022 midterm results.
This story has been updated on Sunday with additional reaction.