Gov. Ron DeSantis, making his first public appearance since returning from a trade mission to Israel, says he supports House Speaker Jose Oliva’s position regarding comments made by state Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, regarding gay people.
“I support Speaker Oliva’s comments and I trust the Speaker to take whatever action is necessary,” DeSantis told reporters when asked about Hill following Tuesday mornings Cabinet meeting.
State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, made note of Hill’s comments in a reference during the Cabinet meeting about June being Gay Pride month.
“Despite recent, hurtful comments against LGBTQ Floridians, know this: (Hill) does not reflect Florida,” Fried said. “We are proud to stand against injustice, discrimination and hate, and stand with our LGBTQ community to continue pushing equality.”
The Pensacola News Journal released audio last Friday of Hill laughing in response to a constituent’s suggestion that he pass a law sentencing gay people to death. Hill’s actions drew criticism from both sides of the aisle.
Hill was recorded at a meeting of the Women for Responsible Legislation held on May 23.
The following is a transcript of the exchange as published by the PNJ.
A citizen comments: “In 1 Corinthians, it says that a man who has an affair with another man will be put to death.”
“It says that in the Old Testament, too.”
Another attendee asks, “Can you introduce legislation?”
Chuckles are audible. The state representative joins the laughter. “I wonder how that would go over?” Hill says.
Oliva, along with Rules Committee Chairman Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican who is set to be the next House speaker, issued a joint statement on Friday condemning Hill’s comments.
“We unequivocally condemn both the question asked of Representative Hill and Representative Hill’s laughter and refusal to push back and remind his audience that this is America and we don’t stone people to death we disagree with,” the statement said.
“Such callous indifference to an outrageous question is unacceptable, runs contrary to our founding principles, and in no way reflects the beliefs of the Florida House,” the two leaders went on to say.
Oliva, Sprowls and state Sen. Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, demanded an apology. Hill has refused to apologize, accusing the PNJ of being “fake news.”
“Absurd to ask me to apologize for a statement that I did not make and that no one took seriously,” Hill tweeted in response to Oliva’s and Sprowls’ joint statement. “This is a social media lynching!”
Speaking following the Cabinet meeting, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis says an apology from Hill is in order.
“Sometimes we misspoke, maybe we just need to go apologize so we can all heal and move forward,” Patronis said.