Ron DeSantis refuses to apologise for saying he aims to start ‘slitting throats’ of federal employees

Ron DeSantis with his mouth open.

Ron DeSantis has refused to apologise for saying he aims to “start slitting throats”.

Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the presidential candidate and Republican governor of Florida addressed the comments, saying voters knew his words were “a figure of speech.”

DeSantis was widely condemned for the speech in August, when he criticised the bureaucracy of federal employees, whom he called “deep state people” – a phrase linked to a conspiracy theory that’s popular with some right-wing pundits and politicians.

“We’re going to start slitting throats on day one and be ready to go,” he said. “You’re going to see a huge outcry because Washington wants to protect its own.”

Following the speech, the National Treasury Employees Union president, Tony Reardon, called the comments “repulsive” and said DeSantis was “unworthy of the presidential campaign trail”.

Everett Kelley, the national president of The American Federation of Government Employees, went further, describing DeSantis’ threat as “dangerous, disgusting, disgraceful and disqualifying”.

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But during the interview on Thursday (2 November), DeSantis stood by his words. “I don’t think anyone could reasonably have taken that and acted like I’m somehow advocating anything other than robust political process and robust political accountability,” he claimed.

Elsewhere in the interview, DeSantis said he aimed to bring “serious accountability” to Washington, saying that, if elected, he would “take very swift action to resize this government”.

Ron DeSantis lags in the 2024 Republican Primary, polling shows

If the current polls are anything to go by, DeSantis’ dream of winning back the White House for the Republicans will remain just that. Figures show him lagging well behind frontrunner Donald Trump with just 13.4 per cent of the vote compared with the former president’s 59.3 per cent.

Favourability polls published by FiveThirtyEight also show that 49.4 per cent of US voters view DeSantis negatively, while 33.7 per cent view him favourably.

His unfavourable status could be due in part to his aggressiveness in approving anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, which stands contrary to recent survey statistics published by Data for Progress, who found that almost 50 per cent of voters feel politicians have become increasingly hostile towards queer Americans.

Republicans have also begun to turn on the governor for continuing his bitter war against Walt Disney World and its parent company, Disney, after the organisation spoke out against Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.

Disney’s chief executive Bob Iger called Ron DeSantis “anti-business and anti-Florida”, in a statement in April.

“He’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property, in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right,” Iger said.

“That seems wrong to me.”