Florida State Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) appears to be courting neo-Nazis in his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Sen. Latvala launched his gubernatorial campaign outside of Miami this week, just days after neo-Nazis and white supremacists organized a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to three deaths and 34 more injured. According to Politico, Latvala wouldn’t give a direct answer to reporters present at the event about whether or not he felt the white supremacists were solely responsible for the violence.

“I wasn’t there,” insisted Sen. Latvala, who is chairman of the Florida Joint Legislative Budget Commission. “I condemn all violence of people that are protesting. If people are peacefully exercising their rights — whether they be white supremacists or whether they be Black Lives Matter folks — they have a right to demonstrate without having a mob attack them.”

“I’ve heard a lot of different stories about what may or may not have gone down. I’m sure the president and people that are closer to it have a lot more information than I do,” he added.

Latvala’s refusal to explicitly condemn the roughly 1,000 neo-Nazis and white supremacists who gathered last weekend and chanted slogans like “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil” for inciting the outbreak of violence echoes 45’s* bizarre Tuesday press conference. While taking questions from reporters, 45 repeatedly equated neo-Nazis carrying swastika flags with nonviolent clergy members counter-protesting, saying “there is blame on both sides.

“You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now,” 45 said, adding that there were also “very fine people on both sides.”

While Sen. Latvala expressed sadness at the deaths of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was allegedly run over by 20-year-old white supremacist James Fields, and the two Virginia State Police officers who died in a related helicopter crash, Latvala continued to insist that both sides of protesters were to blame for the fatalities, according to Politico’s Marc Caputo, who captured a terse exchange Sen. Latvala had with the media:

When asked to clarify whether he was equating Black Lives Matter and neo-Nazis, Latvala said: “I said whoever it might be that’s out there protesting.”

Is that a yes or a no? “I said whoever is out there protesting, and I used a couple — I’m not supporting Nazis,” he replied, walking away from reporters.

Sen. Latvala’s statement positions himself as an outcast in comparison with Republican leaders in the Sunshine State, like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, both of whom immediately distanced themselves from 45 following his press conference:

(*EDITOR’S NOTE: GritPost.com is now exclusively referring to Donald Trump as “45.” Please read our official statement on Twitter explaining the decision.)

 

Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.

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