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DeSantis' presidential campaign is under fire for an ad described as homophobic

ROB SCHMITZ, HOST:

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' presidential campaign is coming under fire for an ad that's being described as homophobic. It attacks former President Donald Trump, the current GOP front-runner, for his past claims of support for LGBTQ+ people, including after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

DONALD TRUMP: I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens.

SCHMITZ: That is the ad, and it cuts to images of DeSantis, along with headlines featuring the governor's support for legislation deemed anti-trans. One group criticizing the ad is the Log Cabin Republicans, which says it represents LGBT conservatives. Its president is Charles Moran, who joins us now. Good morning, Charles.

CHARLES MORAN: Good morning.

SCHMITZ: So your group said this ad strayed into homophobic territory. What was so egregious about this ad?

MORAN: Well, it really takes into consideration the fact that, you know, this ad was - didn't really have a purpose and didn't really have a point. And when you start looking at some of the imagery that they were using, something that you mentioned, like President Trump trying to bring some unity for the country together after the Pulse nightclub shooting, again advocating for equal rights and equal treatment for LGBT individuals - this is something that the GOP has already basically agreed upon. We - the Republican Party, if you look at recent national polling, more than a majority supports equality for marriage for LGBT individuals. Republicans provided the necessary critical votes to push the Respect for Marriage vote over the line last year in the House and the Senate.

So the Republican Party has really moved on on a lot of these issues. And Ron DeSantis, instead of choosing to target some of the more radical and extreme fringe of the LGBT movement, as we've seen with radical gender theory and as we've been seeing an attack on parental rights, he chose to go after Republicans who are actually doing good things for the party and doing good things for the public. We saw, again, that criticism of Donald Trump coming after the Pulse nightclub shooting. They - we saw, you know, attack on people like Caitlyn Jenner. There was drag queens in the show that, you know, are well-known in the conservative movement for being, you know, very pro-America, very of America-first.

Ron DeSantis could have focused on some of the more fringe elements of the movement, and we've seen a lot of that in Pride month. But instead, he turned his attack on Republicans who are actually trying to help the party and trying to actually help the movement. So there is a lot - and then you've got some strange imagery of Ron DeSantis being between two oiled-up, hunky-type of men. I mean, the ad smacked of both homophobia and homoeroticism at the same time. So anybody who's a political professional looking at this is really just very confused as to what the point of this ad was and what the intention of it was.

SCHMITZ: So this ad was, of course, an attack on Trump specifically. Why do you think the DeSantis campaign is doing this? Why are they attacking him specifically in this way?

MORAN: A misguided attack like this shows that they really don't have a focus and are not - don't have anybody on their team who is truly understanding where the movement is. And that style of attack is just not - it's going to backfire and is not helpful for his campaign or the GOP in general.

SCHMITZ: That's Charles Moran. He is the president of the Log Cabin Republicans. Thanks, Charles.

MORAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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