Just days after federal authorities discovered a bomb left on George Soros’ property, Ron DeSantis, the Republican candidate for governor of Florida, spread fears that the Democratic financier could infiltrate the state’s government.
Speaking at Inman Park Baptist Church in Winter Haven this past Friday, DeSantis was in the midst of arguing that a victory by his opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, would fundamentally destroy Florida’s economy, when he noted the ability of a governor to appoint swaths of people to statewide agencies and boards.
“He could be seeding, into our state government, you know, Soros-backed activists,” DeSantis said of his opponent.
Portraying Soros as a liberal boogeyman has been a rite of passage for conservatives for years. That’s been especially true this cycle in Florida, where Soros has been one of the top financial supporters of Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign.
But DeSantis’ remarks came at a particularly delicate time. That Tuesday, news broke that an explosive device had been found at Soros’ suburban New York home. It was the first revelation of what turned out to be a mass assassination attempt on numerous leading Democrats. Just hours after DeSantis spoke, the suspect in those bombings—a Donald Trump-loving Florida man—was arrested by authorities.
DeSantis has been repeatedly criticized during the campaign for his ties to fringe figures, including white nationalists, and his use of racially tinged comments. He urged voters not to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum, in what was viewed by many as a reference to Gillum’s race. He attended a conference with infamous alt-right figures, and has refused to return money from a donor who once called Barack Obama a “Muslim n----r.”
DeSantis has recoiled at accusations that he’s soft-peddled racism, though it became a flashpoint during a recent gubernatorial debate.
The DeSantis campaign did not return a request for comment. But he is not the only Republican official who has found himself in hot water over the use of Soros as a campaign pressure point in the wake of the bomb scares.
Two days after Soros was targeted, the National Republican Campaign Committee released an ad in which it attacked a Democratic candidate for being financed by Soros. That ad, along with a prior one by the committee, was criticized for having anti-Semitic undertones (Soros is Jewish).
On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) removed a tweet he had posted that attacked Soros and other Democratic donors. The tweet had been posted just one day after the Soros bomb threat. Its removal became news again after a gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The alleged shooter had reportedly rationalized his actions by citing a conspiracy theory that Soros was funding a caravan of migrant Hondurans en route to the United States, and reportedly told authorities: “They’re committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews.”