Florida gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ron DeSantis responded Wednesday on "Hannity" to criticism of his use of the phrase "monkey this up" to describe damage his Democratic opponent would do to the Sunshine State if elected.

DeSantis (R) made the comment earlier in the day on Fox News, and caused backlash because the remark was directed at Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D), who is black.

"It has zero to do with race," DeSantis said. "It has everything to do with whether we want Florida to go in a good direction."

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DeSantis said the Bernie Sanders- and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-endorsed Gillum would make Florida take a "turn to left-wing socialist policies that will absolutely devastate this state."

He said socialism is "not good for any race, color or creed," and that he won't let Democrats and critics "obscure a debate" on the issues with claims of racism.

DeSantis said he is more concerned with Gillum's plan to greatly hike business taxes in the state, adding that such a move would reverse progress made under Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and President Donald Trump.

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