DeSantis slammed for ‘dog whistle’ calling Islamic robes ‘man dresses’ at GOP debate

Ron DeSantis has been slammed for calling traditional Islamic robes “man dresses” during the fourth and final Republican presidential primary debate.

The Florida governor went head to head with former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, biotech entrepreneur and conspiracy theorist Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the debate hosted by NewsNation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Wednesday night.

During the event – where the four candidates repeatedly traded barbs with each other – Mr DeSantis referred to the clothing worn by al-Qaeda as “man dresses”.

The Floridian, who was once thought to be the Republican 2024 hopeful but has been doing dismally in the polls, had been asked by the moderators about his previous comments saying he supported the use of “deadly force” against migrants suspected of smuggling drugs into the US.

“When I was in Iraq, the al-Qaeda wasn’t wearing a uniform. You’d see anyone walking down the street, they all had man dresses on,” he replied, making the derogatory comment about a thobe.

“You didn’t know if they had a bomb, an IED, attached or not.”

The thobe is traditional clothing worn by Muslim men due to both its modest appearance and to protect the wearer from the heat.

Mr DeSantis’ flippant comment about the clothing sparked uproar from several social media users some of whom branded his words a “dog whistle”, “racist” and “beyond the pale”.

“Just to confirm: DeSantis just referred to Middle Eastern garments as “Man Dresses“? WTH. Dude. How offensive to their culture!” one person wrote on X.

“Sure, let’s insult anybody who doesn’t dress like us,” another person wrote.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on stage during the debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (REUTERS)
Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on stage during the debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (REUTERS)

“DeSantis calling traditional garb “man dresses“ is beyond the pale. It was already obvious he’s racist, but the fact that that disgusting remark went unchallenged--with two Indian Americans who clearly understand cultural dress on the stage--is even more gross,” another person chimed in.

Another person took to X to ask: “Did he just say “man dress”? How ignorant! Even if DeSantis didn’t know the proper name, he knows the dog whistle he just sent out.”

“Ron DeSantis - Do you call the attire of Catholic priests “man dresses”?” another person asked, sharing an image of Catholic priests in robes.

This isn’t the first time Mr DeSantis has referred to the clothing in this manner, having made similar comments back in July. And it also is far from the first time that he has come under fire for his anti-Muslim stance.

As a congressman back in 2015, Mr DeSantis introduced the Terrorist Refugee Infiltration Prevention Act, seeking to block entry to refugees from countries “containing terrorist-controlled territory”.

The policy – which failed to progress – effectively paved the way for Mr Trump’s Muslim travel ban.