During a campaign stop in Iowa, presidential hopeful and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ranted about the state of Bethlehem today, calling the biblical city that Christian theology believes was the birthplace of Jesus a “pigsty.”
“When I visited Bethlehem, honestly, it was a pigsty, it was a disgrace, how nasty it was,” DeSantis said in Clinton on Wednesday, according to a Florida Politics report.
“So, you have this beautiful church that commemorates the birth of Christ and it’s not, it’s beautiful, but you come out of the church and they built this, like, massive mosque towering over it,” DeSantis said. “That’s intentional. That’s what they would do.”
His comment likely refers to the Mosque of Omar, which was built in 1860 in honor of Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab. The Caliph decreed that the Church of Nativity would remain a Christian place of worship and permitted Muslims to pray there only individually.
In 1995, following the Oslo Accords, Israel ceded control of Bethlehem to the Palestinian National Authority as part of the steps taken toward a two-state solution.
DeSantis previously put Bethlehem on blast, similarly describing it as a “pigsty” in November and calling the city, which he noted is “controlled by the Palestinian Arabs” as “not well-kept.”
His comments at the time came in support of Israel amid its war with Hamas, where he argued that “Israelis are caretakers of the most important history that we have” and that Arabs would not allow Christians to “walk in the footsteps of where Jesus walked” and visit important biblical sites.
The Florida governor has taken hardline stances in support of Israel and has rejected the idea of the U.S. accepting Palestinian refugees from Gaza, where fighting is estimated to have killed at least 20,000 people and has displaced 1.9 million people—about 85% of the population of Gaza—according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
He argued that refugees from Gaza shouldn’t be allowed in the U.S. because everyone there is antisemitic.
“If you look at how they behave, not all of them are Hamas, but they are all antisemitic,” he claimed in October. “None of them believe in Israel’s right to exist.”
He later doubled down, arguing that the education system in Gaza prepares “very young kids to commit terrorist attacks.”
“I think it’s a toxic culture and I think if we were to import large numbers of those to the United States it would increase antisemitism in this country and I think it would increase anti-Americanism in this country,” he said.