TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that his political opponent's pick for lieutenant governor should be disqualified for proximity to an alleged sex offender.
The governor took the swipe during an unrelated press conference held in Fort Pierce. It was the Republican's first time publicly commenting on Charlie Crist's running mate, Karla Hernández, who Crist announced over the weekend.
DeSantis said United Teachers of Dade (UTD), the teacher union led by Hernández, "protected" a member accused of sexual misconduct for years.
"You do not put union politics ahead of middle school students who are in danger of being sexually abused," DeSantis said. "I think that's disqualifying to be in any political office — much less lieutenant governor of the state of Florida."
The teacher in question is Wendell Nibbs, a former Miami-Dade educator. He pleaded guilty in 2020 to two counts of sexual activity with a child. Nibbs' plea came after years of allegations and ongoing police investigations since at least 2015.
The DeSantis campaign has tried to give fuel to its allegations of a connection online for days. The "DeSantis WarRoom" account has tweeted several pictures of Nibbs and Hernández together at union events and gatherings.
The Crist Campaign has flatly rejected it all.
"It's a lie," Samantha Ramirez, Crist's campaign communications director, said in a statement. "And to top it off, it's coming from a governor whose own campaign was led by accused child sexual predator Matt Gaetz, and whose disgusting [sic] actions DeSantis still refuses to condemn. While Ron DeSantis shields sexual predators in his own party, Karla Hernández is a former special needs teacher who has devoted her life to serving the people of her community."
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is the subject of a federal sex trafficking investigation and has not faced any charges.
The Crist campaign also noted that UTD doesn't hire lawyers for teachers and relies on authorities or schools to do background checks. They said that although Nibbs was a "building steward" in the union, he was selected by local members, not leadership.
Crist, meanwhile, has taken shots of his own at DeSantis' Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez.
"What did the current lieutenant governor do?" the Democrat asked reporters at a press gathering last week. "She just said Cuban immigrants to Florida, we're going to ship them out of the state."
Crist's words come after Nuñez did a Spanish-language interview with WURN (Actualidad Radio), earlier this month. The lieutenant governor was discussing DeSantis' plans for undocumented migrants.
Governor Ron DeSantis is planning to force immigrants who arrive in Florida to be bussed to Delaware according to his Cuban-American Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez who shared the plan on Spanish radio in Miami. pic.twitter.com/7rhwSmIsVC— Cubanos Pa'lante (@cubanospalante) August 20, 2022
"The governor isn't going to stand there with his arms crossed," Nuñez said. "He's thinking what he's going to do. He's going to send them, frankly, to the state of Delaware, the president's state."
Nuñez has said she was referring to those entering the country illegally and not asylum seekers. She maintains that Democrats and the Crist campaign have misrepresented her comments.