Gubernatorial candidates Chris King and Andrew Gillum have joined several Central Florida Democrats in condemning offensive comments made by Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg and calling on him to resign.
Greenberg posted the following message, which has since been deleted, on Facebook Saturday: “One Simple question … Name just ONE society in the developed world that has benefited in ANY WAY from the introduction of more Muslims. Just one. Asking for a friend…”
Many considered the comments to be Islamophobic, leading Democrats in neighboring Orange County to call on Greenberg to resign Monday, among them Democratic House District 47 candidate Anna Eskamani, who is the daughter of Iranian-American immigrants.
Greenberg responded to those calls with a Twitter rant threatening and insulting critics, including Eskamani and Ben Friedman, the director of community relations for the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, among others.
Chris King added his name to the list of those calling for Greenberg to step down Tuesday. The statement came as the candidate addressed Tampa Bay-area Muslims during an Eid al-Adha celebration at the Florida State Fairgrounds
“As Muslims across Florida gather to celebrate Eid, these are the moments when leaders in our state must come together to condemn these type of hateful remarks,” the Winter Park businessman said in a statement received by the Orlando Sentinel. “The Seminole County tax collector should obviously resign, but we must go a step further and lift up a new kind of politics that offers a seat at the table for people of all faiths and no faith tradition.”
King made a similar statement, addressing Greenberg by name, in a press conference following the event.
“Mr. Greenberg’s comments are vile and they’re mean,” he said. “People have called for his resignation, I think that’s just where it starts. He certainly should resign and is not fit for public office, but we should have a conversation in our state that we just don’t tolerate that kind of unkindness.”
King added that Muslims would be represented in state government if he were elected governor, reports WUSF.
“What I have suggested is that you will have access, you will have a voice,” King said. “You will have leaders that look like you, identify with you, and share your faith inside my government that are giving me counsel.”
Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, released a statement shortly after King echoing the call for Greenberg to resign.
“Eid Mubarak to all those who celebrate across Florida! Please join me in wishing our families and friends across our state a peaceful and fulfilling holiday. Unfortunately, as we mark this important holiday, we are confronted with another ugly, divisive elected official who thinks Muslims are harmful to our state and society,” Gillum said.
“Let me be clear: as our next Governor, I welcome people of all faiths, and especially Muslims, to the Sunshine State. I was proud to be joined on the campaign trail last weekend by Khizr Khan, whose son Humayun gave his life in service to our country. Mr. Khan spoke passionately about the need for a loving, inclusive society that values the dignity of each one of us. I echo his calls, and urge the Tax Collector to resign his seat at once,” Gillum concluded.
King and Gillum are two of five Democrats running to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott. They face former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the Aug. 28 nominating contest.