DeSantis Defends Controversial Anti-Trump Ad Some Conservatives Complain is Anti-LGBT

After taking criticism for a campaign ad attacking Donald Trump’s performance on LGBT issues, Ron DeSantis defended the video, saying it was “fair game.”

He responded to backlash about the ad in an interview on July 5 with Tomi Lahren on her show “Tomi Lahren is Fearless,” a production of the conservative news organization Outkick, owned by Fox Corp.

The ad in question was posted to the DeSantis War Room page on Twitter on June 30.

“What was the intent of that video?” Ms. Lahren asked the Florida governor and candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign event in Pickens, S.C., on July 1, 2023. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

The point of the ad, Mr. DeSantis said, was “identifying Donald Trump as really being a pioneer in injecting gender ideology into the mainstream when he was having men compete against women in his beauty pageants.

“I think that’s totally fair game. Because now he’s campaigning, saying the opposite—that he doesn’t think that you should have men competing in women’s things like athletics.

“And so we’ve been very clear on it, that we believe in protecting the rights of our girls and the rights of women athletes to be able to participate with fairness and with integrity.

“And ultimately, when you talk about some of the gender ideology that’s being unleashed in this country, in the state of Florida, we are fighting back against that.”

Having men competing in women’s sports violates women athletes’ opportunities, Mr. DeSantis said.

“I think there’s value in making sure our society is rooted in truth and not in social fads,” he said.

Ms. Lahren said she agreed.

“And most Americans want to restore that common sense,” she said. “I mean, this is a winning issue for Republicans, as a whole.

“But … people are going to get mad about everything. You’re never going to please everybody. Donald Trump takes so many swings at you, so it’s understandable.”

Caitlyn Jenner
Caitlyn Jenner speaks at the fourth Women’s March in Los Angeles on Jan. 18, 2020. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)

The 73-second video uses quick cuts, edgy graphics, and pounding music to illustrate the differing opinions of Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis.

The post on the DeSantis War Room page on Twitter is prefaced, “To wrap up ‘Pride Month,’ let’s hear from the politician who did more than any other Republican to celebrate it …”

It starts with Mr. Trump orating, “I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens.”

It cuts to photos of Caitlyn Jenner—the former gold-medal-winning Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner—who identifies as transgender. Mr. Jenner has spoken publicly in opposition to men competing in women’s sports.

Epoch Times Photo
Bruce Jenner, now known as Caitlyn Jenner, attends Comcast Entertainment Group’s Party for “Keeping Up With The Kardashians/The Spin Crowd Premiere” at Trousdale in West Hollywood, Calif., on Aug. 19, 2010. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The ad shows an interviewer asking Mr. Trump at a North Carolina town hall if he’d be OK with Mr. Jenner, who now dresses and identifies as a woman, coming to Trump Tower and using any bathroom there.

“That is correct,” Mr. Trump responds in the video clip.

The ad also shows men in drag.

And in a vintage news clip used in the ad, interviewer Barbara Walters asks Mr. Trump if men could compete in the Miss Universe pageant, which he then owned.

“Yes,” he responds.

Then, a heavily made-up drag performer wearing a “Lady MAGA” sash is shown saying, “Make America Great Again.”

The ad shifts abruptly to an image of the word “No” over pictures of an unsmiling Mr. DeSantis. A TV news clip shows him signing a bill, as children look on, with the headline “Ron DeSantis signs draconian anti-trans bathroom bill into law.”

Another headline says, “Pride event in St. Cloud canceled after DeSantis signs ‘Protection of Children Act’ into law.”

More clips and headlines follow as the music pounds.

Interspersed are images of a man dressed as a helmeted ancient warrior and a heavily-muscled body-builder. Headlines flash across the screen about Mr. DeSantis.

“No one is more dangerous for the White House than Ron DeSantis—including Donald Trump” and “DeSantis’ assault on ‘leftism’ is totalitarianism in disguise.”

More follow: “DeSantis seems unstoppable,” “DeSantis is evil,” and “DeSantis is public enemy No. 1.”

The headline “MSNBC slammed as ‘freak show’ after host Chris Hayes melts down defending gender surgery for children” is superimposed over Hayes saying, “I can’t think of anything more horrifying.”

There are images of Mr. DeSantis smiling, laughing, looking triumphant.

There are images of military planes flying and Mr. DeSantis, an Iraq War veteran, in a military jumpsuit. The words “a real wolf has finally arrived,” flash across the screen.

Epoch Times Photo
People embrace during a vigil outside the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, Fla., on June 13, 2016, to remember the victims of a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub on the previous day. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.)

The ad was posted on June 30 at the end of Pride Month observances, and on the same day as the Supreme Court ruled a website designer had the right to opt out of designing websites for same-sex weddings.

The ad posted by the account representing Mr. DeSantis was widely attacked, including by Republicans.

The Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBT conservatives, called the video “divisive and desperate.”

Trump’s campaign spokesman Steven Cheung told CNN it showed “a desperate campaign in its last throes of relevancy.”

Critics noted that Trump’s vow to protect gays came in the wake of the June 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting at a gay club in Orlando, in which 49 people were killed and 53 wounded.

The FBI deemed it a terror attack.

The shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, swore allegiance to a leader of ISIS in a 911 call to police.

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