By Jason Lange
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Gay Republicans have slammed as “homophobic” a video released by Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis’ campaign highlighting his rival Donald Trump’s past statements in favor of gay rights, and the former President declined at a Saturday rally to respond to the attack.
Florida Governor DeSantis’ campaign posted the video to Twitter late Friday, saying it marks the end of a month-long LGBTQ+ pride celebration.
“To wrap up Pride Month, let’s hear from the politician who has done more than any other Republican to celebrate it,” the campaign said, introducing the video. It contrasted Trump’s 2016 pledge to “do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens” with DeSantis’ outright conservatism regarding transgender rights and other LGBTQ+ rights.
It’s unclear who originally produced the video, which featured a montage of muscular men, flashes of electricity shooting out of DeSantis’ eyes and activists lamenting what they said were his efforts to restrict the rights of transgender.
“It’s undeniably homophobic,” Richard Grenell — who served as the first openly gay White House Cabinet official as acting director of national intelligence during the 2017-2021 Trump administration — tweeted Friday night.
As governor, DeSantis supported state laws to restrict medical treatment for transgender children and ban minors from attending drag shows in Florida.
His campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
At a rally in Pickens, South Carolina, Trump failed to acknowledge the campaign setback for DeSantis, who is trailing far behind the former president in public opinion polls and struggling to build support with far-right positions on abortion, transgender rights and other issues.
Instead, Trump, during an hour-long campaign speech, repeatedly criticized sporting events that allowed transgender women to compete in women’s competitions.
“I will keep men out of women’s sports,” he promised.
Trump pledged at the 2016 Republican National Convention to protect gay rights. But, as president, he faced criticism when he banned transgender people from serving in the military and his administration proposed stripping protections for transgender people who face discrimination in health care.
Asked for comment on the video on Saturday, the Trump campaign pointed to a tweet posted Friday night in which Trump adviser Jason Miller said “someone is getting fired” over the DeSantis campaign post. Miller did not elaborate.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative gay rights group, said Republicans needed to stand up against “radical left-wing gays,” but DeSantis had gone too far.
“DeSantis and his team can’t tell the difference between common-sense gays and hard-left gays,” the group said in a tweet Friday night, claiming the presidential hopeful “just strayed into homophobic territory. “.
(Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; Additional reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)