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USDA head Sonny Perdue calls Florida election ‘cotton-picking’ important

In a race with racially charged moments, in steps a cabinet member.


Joseph Knoop


Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue used a racially charged phrase during a campaign event for Florida Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, who is white and running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is Black.

“Public policy matters. Leadership matters. And that is why this election is so cotton-pickin’ important to the state of Florida. I hope you all don’t mess it up,” Perdue, a former Georgia governor, said.

The phrase “cotton-pickin’” is commonly regarded as a synonym for “damn,” but can be considered a dog-whistle attack in a race already plagued by racist language.

DeSantis has faced criticism for his own racial remarks in the past, including a Fox News interview in August where DeSantis said Florida shouldn’t “monkey this up” by electing Gillum. Some Florida voters also received robocalls last week that used racist language and tropes to speak about Gillum. The DeSantis campaign was not involved in producing or distributing the calls.

Perdue’s comment was originally flagged by American Bridge, a liberal PAC. A DeSantis spokesperson told Huffington Post that DeSantis was “happy” to have Perdue’s support, and referred any questions about Perdue’s comments to the former governor himself. The Department of Agriculture has not responded to any media requests for comment.

This is not the first time that phrase has been used in the run-up to the midterms.

Former Trump campaign manager and Fox News correspondent David Bossie was temporarily suspended from the network for telling a black Democratic strategist that he was “out of his cotton-pickin’ mind.”

“I have some relatives who picked cotton,” the strategist replied, “and I’m not going to sit back and let you attack me on TV like that.”

Fox News issued a statement calling Bossie’s comment “deeply offensive and wholly inappropriate.”

Andrew Gillum made waves on social media during a recent debate between the two candidates when he commented on DeSantis’ racial remarks and affiliations.

“I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” Gillum said. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

DeSantis does indeed have a record of speaking at far-right conferences. He also accepted campaign contributions from a donor who called President Obama a racist slur on Twitter.

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