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Republican Party of Florida calls on Andrew Gillum to fire staffer who wore explicit shirt

Manny Orozco Ballestas, who was last week named the Gillum campaign's director of youth outreach, donned a shirt last year that called the portion of the country that voted for Donald Trump in 2016, "Dumbf***istan."
OCTAVIO JONES | Times Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia gives the opening speech at the Sunshine Summit held at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando, Florida on Friday, November 13, 2015. Republican Presidential candidates give their campaign speeches at the Republican Party of Florida's Sunshine Summit.
Published Sep. 27, 2018
Updated Sep. 27, 2018

The Republican Party of Florida is calling on Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum to fire a staffer who last year posed for a photo with an explicit reference to states that voted to elect Donald Trump in 2016.

Manny Orozco-Ballestas, who was brought aboard the Gillum campaign last week as its director of youth outreach, posted a photo of himself on his Instagram last summer. In the picture, Orozco Ballestas is wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the 2016 electoral map. The map's key indicates the blue states — the ones that voted to elect Hillary Clinton — are "The United States of America," while red states form a different nation: "Dumbf***istan."

A screen grab from a Republican Party of Florida release showing an Andrew Gillum campaign staffer, months before he joined the campaign, donning an explicit shirt. Credit: RPOF [screen grab]
A screen grab from a Republican Party of Florida release showing an Andrew Gillum campaign staffer, months before he joined the campaign, donning an explicit shirt. Credit: RPOF [screen grab]
In a press release highlighting the post, which was first reported by the Central Florida Post, a conservative blog, RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia  expressed outrage over the photo.

"It is unbelievable to me that Andrew Gillum would not only employ, but promote on social media, a person who calls voters 'dumb f*cks' for electing Republicans," Ingoglia said, calling on Gillum to apologize and then fire Orozco-Ballestas. "It is hypocritical for Gillum to endorse the same kind of hateful, intolerant speech that he likes to denounce."

Also included in the press release was a portion of the Central Florida Post article written by Jacob Engels, a Roger Stone disciple and contributor to the dubious Infowars website.

"Does Manny Orozco-Ballestas just hate the White Republicans or does he hate anyone who is a registered Republican?" the press release quoted Engels.

Meredith Beatrice, a spokeswoman for the RPOF said the party quoted Engels in order to properly attribute his reporting. Beatrice also noted the Party independently confirmed Engels' reporting before disseminating it.

In response to Ingoglia's statement about the controversial shirt, a Gillum spokeswoman said that the campaign won't "be lectured about words by the Party of Trump."

"The anti-Trump shirt he wore before he was hired wasn't funny or in any way related to our campaign and we've addressed that with him," the spokeswoman, Carlie Waibel, told the Times in a statement.

Before joining the Gillum campaign, Orozco-Ballestas was the youth outreach director for Philip Levine's gubernatorial run.

A few minutes after the Republican Party's press release, the Florida Democrats issues their own release hitting Gillum's opponent in the governor's race, titled, "The Top 10 Times Ron DeSantis Refused to Apologize for His Offensive Allies." Included on the Democrats' list were the conservative provocateurs Dinesh D'Souza and David Horowitz.

This story has been clarified to refer to the Central Florida Post as a conservative blog, not an alt-right blog.