DeSantis and others facing increased backlash for bigoted, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media in the Florida Cabinet following his State of the State address during a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives, Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. DeSantis' administration is moving to unilaterally forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, expanding the controversial law critics call “Don't Say Gay” as the Republican governor continues a focus on cultural issues ahead of his expected presidential run. (AP Photo/Phil Sears, File)
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A rift is growing in the GOP as politicians like Ron DeSantis and Ryan Walters use bigotry to rally a shrinking base.

In recent weeks, both men have launched attacks on the LGBTQ+ community in hopes of garnering political clout. While these efforts often resonate with certain fringe audiences, more sensible individuals are beginning to turn away.

On the final day of Pride month, DeSantis, the Florida Governor and presidential hopeful, posted a bizarre anti-LGBTQ attack ad against Trump. The video condemned Trump for promising to protect the rights of gay and trans Americans as president.

The strange video then rifles through headlines and news clips, seemingly celebrating DeSantis’s homophobia and transphobia.

One day later in Philadelphia, Ryan Walters, the head of public education in Oklahoma, spoke at a conference hosted by the extremist group “Moms for Liberty”. Walters issued a statement calling the conference at a Marriott Hotel the “most important event in Philadelphia” since 1776.

Walters then penned an op-ed claiming “if we can’t define woke, we can’t win the battle for our schools.”

In his Daily Caller opinion piece, Walters defines “woke” as “the enforced projection of inaccurately-held, anti-education values onto our students.” It was not clear what those “values” were, though Walters did repeat an unsubstantiated claim about porn in schools.

It’s clear, however, through numerous actions from Walters, DeSantis, and others, that “woke” is anything that uplifts and values diverse communities and histories across the country.

Some in the GOP begin distancing themselves from DeSantis, Walters and others as they continue pushing bigotry

And so as threats to, in Walters’ words, “destroy” anything deemed “woke” continue to envelop more and more Americans, some in the GOP are starting to push back.

Republicans Chris Christie and Will Hurd, both also 2024 contenders, immediately distanced themselves from DeSantis.

“I’m not comfortable with it,” Christie said of the video on CNN. “I’m not comfortable with where Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump are moving the debate in our country.”

“They are trying to divide us further, and it’s wrong. It’s absolutely wrong.”

Hurd, a Republican and former Congressman from Texas, called the video divisive. “I wish they would focus their attacks on war criminals like Vladimir Putin and not on my friends in the LBGTQ community,” Hurd said.

Richard Grenell, Trump’s former National Security Advisor and the only openly gay White House Cabinet member, called the ad “undeniably homophobic.”

The Log Cabin Republicans, a group of LGBTQ+ Republicans, called DeSantis’s video “divisive and desperate.”

Before the latest comments, Walters has also already faced backlash from his party. During the Spring legislative session, Republicans called Walters out for failing to fulfill the duties of his office. The GOP-led house also passed a bill to limit his power as State Superintendent. Now, an investigation by Oklahoma’s Republican state auditor and the Republican Attorney General has uncovered potential corruption under his leadership.

“He’s chosen a path of rhetoric and not actual legitimate education policy,” Republican State Representative Mark McBride said of Walters earlier this Spring. “It’s just not right to have somebody in this position that has these kind of ideas.”

Nate Morris moved to the Tulsa area in 2012 and has committed himself to helping build a more equitable and just future for everyone who calls the city home. As a teacher, advocate, community organizer...

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