Ron-DeSantis Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Thursday in Orlando, the very same day Russia invaded Ukraine.
AP Photo/John Raoux

In response to the governor’s silence, state Democrats say now is the time for DeSantis to show where he stands.

As Russian dictator Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis railed against authoritarianism in Democratic Australia, Canada, and Europe, while not once mentioning the Russian invasion that, according to Ukraine’s human rights commissioner, by Sunday had claimed 210 civilian victims, including several children.

Instead, during the first day of speeches at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that took place Thursday in Orlando, DeSantis slammed those nations for enacting more restrictive public health measures in the midst of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic.

What the Republican incumbent failed to mention: nearly 69,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Florida, compared to approximately 5,000 in Australia and 36,000 in Canada, both countries that have larger populations than Florida.

Despite this grim statistic, DeSantis criticized COVID lockdowns in Canada,  Australia and across the US, and claimed that people have been “fleeing” those places for Florida, the “freest state” in the US.

No Mention of Ukraine

Although DeSantis did not mention Ukraine in his speech, his spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, tweeted Monday that “the sad fact is the USA is in no position to ‘promote democracy’ abroad while our own country is falling apart.”

This drew an instant rebuke from US Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat running against DeSantis for governor, who called for DeSantis’ condemnation of this view.

“America stands for freedom and democracy. We strongly support democratic values when they are threatened, whether at home or abroad. This statement is unpatriotic and should be condemned by Gov. Ron DeSantis,” Crist said in a statement.

Crist added that if DeSantis doesn’t stand up for democracy in Ukraine, “how can he look Floridians in the eye and promise to fight for democracy in Cuba, Venezuela, China and elsewhere?”

Another Democrat, Wes Hodge, the chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, had strong words for the governor:

“He stood up there and talked about how free Florida is at the same time his legislature […] is taking away rights: freedom to speak about being gay, being trans, freedom to speak about Black history,” Hodge said, referring to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would prohibit public school districts from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom, and passed in a 69-47 vote, as well as DeSantis’ HB 7 and HB 1557 bills, which will limit how racism is discussed in schools.

An Urgent Call to Florida Politicians

Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried condemned the “unprovoked invasion” and called out political leaders to take a firm stand against the Russian aggression.

“I’m calling on our leaders in Florida to send an unambiguous message to Vladimir Putin, that the democracy-loving people of Florida condemn this act of war.  We do not respect him. We do not fear him. We oppose all aggression against democracy anywhere,” Fried said under the letterhead of her Democratic campaign for Governor.

On Saturday, Crist called on DeSantis to light the Sunshine Skyway Bridge blue and yellow in support of Ukraine.

“Now is the time for [DeSantis] to show where he—and Florida—stands,” Crist said. “May its glow cast across the world to the resilient people of Ukraine and light their way to victory and peace.”