Ryan Morales fires comms director after ‘insensitive’ ‘Nazi’ tweets about J.R. Gaillot

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After initially standing firm in support of his communications director, Agriculture Commissioner candidate Ryan Morales has fired Travis Henville from his campaign team following tweets about a fellow Democratic candidate.

On Wednesday, candidate J.R. Gaillot accused Henville of calling him a “Nazi” in a tweet published that afternoon. Although Morales initially told Florida Politics that Gaillot could “go eff himself” over the complaint, Morales announced Thursday morning that he had parted ways with Henville.

“After careful review we decided it was best to part ways with Mr. Henville,” Morales said in a statement. “My campaign does not and will not tolerate any form of hate within my staff or from those who volunteer.”

Morales also said he is taking Gaillot’s concerns seriously and apologized for Henville’s comments.

In the tweet that sparked controversy, Henville was continuing the campaign’s criticism that many aspects of Gaillot’s platform — including implementing a rent hike cap — are beyond the powers of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). In arguing his case, Henville made a World War II-era comparison.

“JR’s ‘plans’ are great if you depart from reality for a moment and pretend the office of FDACS has the power of the Reich Chancellery. Meanwhile, in realityland, Ryan has ideas about how the office can ACTUALLY be used to benefit Floridians,” Henville tweeted.

The Reich Chancellery is the traditional name of the office occupied by the Chancellor of Germany during the German Reich. Adolf Hitler served as Chancellor from 1933 until his death in 1945.

“As a Latino man, I know how deeply hurtful these kinds of experiences can be and I sincerely hope all candidates rise above this kind of rhetoric and focus on the issues impacting our state,” Morales said. “We respect our Jewish community and its leaders and will continue to fight any sort of hate targeted to any group.”

Henville’s tweet came a week after the Treasurer of a third candidate, Naomi Blemur, posted Instagram comments questioning Gaillot’s claim to a Haitian heritage and referring to his campaign manager, Adam Christensen, as his “campaign master.” Both Blemur and Gaillot are Black and Haitian American, with Blemur being a first-generation Haitian American.

“In 2012, when I was Democratic nominee for Congress, I had to have sheriffs deputy’s escort me into parts of Florida because of death threats. I never expected running in 2022 I would be called a ‘slave’ and a ‘Nazi’ by staffers of my Democratic opponents,” Gaillot tweeted after Henville’s post.

Gaillot told Florida Politics the lines of attack came because he is the only candidate “with real policies,” meaning his opponents must go after him personally.

“When people are losing, they get desperate, but this is something else,” he said.

While Morales apologized for Henville’s tweet, he initially dismissed the issue when Florida Politics dictated the tweet to him. Morales was on the road campaigning and placing yard signs at the time.

“He can go eff himself. He’s trying to smear my name because he’s desperate at this point,” Morales said of Gaillot, repeating his self-censored sentiment.

He later said he had no comment on Henville’s tweet and that the tweet wasn’t made in association with the campaign.

In tweets after Morales issued his statement Thursday, Gaillot said Morales only issued the statement following pushback from the Jewish Community. Additionally, he called it “disgusting, performative behavior.”

“I want to wrap this thing up and focus on the General,” Gaillot said.

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