By Jason Lange
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gay Republicans criticized as "homophobic" a video posted by Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis' campaign highlighting rival Donald Trump's past statements in support of gay rights, and the former president declined at a rally on Saturday to respond to the attack.
Florida Governor DeSantis' campaign posted the video on Twitter late on Friday, saying it marked the end of a month of LGBTQ+ pride celebrations.
"To wrap up Pride Month, let's hear from the politician who did more than any other Republican to celebrate it," the campaign said in presenting the video. It contrasted Trump's 2016 pledge to "do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens" with DeSantis' own hardline conservatism regarding transgender and other LGBTQ+ rights.
It was unclear who originally produced the video, which featured a montage of muscle-bound men, bolts of electricity flying from DeSantis' eyes, and activists lamenting what they characterized as his efforts to restrict transgender rights.
"This is undeniably homophobic," Richard Grenell - who was the first openly gay White House Cabinet official as acting director of national intelligence during Trump's 2017-2021 administration - said on Twitter late on Friday.
As governor, DeSantis has backed state laws aimed at restricting medical treatment for transgender children and barring minors from attending drag shows in Florida.
His campaign did not respond on Saturday to a request for comment.
At a rally in Pickens, South Carolina, Trump did not acknowledge the broadside from the campaign for DeSantis, who trails far behind the former president in public opinion polls and is working to build support with hard-right positions on abortion, transgender rights and other issues.
Instead, Trump, over the course of an hour-long campaign speech, repeatedly criticized sporting events that have allowed transgender women to participate in women's competitions.
"I will keep men out of women's sports," he vowed.
Trump pledged at the 2016 Republican National Convention to protect gay rights. But, as president, he was criticized when he banned transgender people from serving in the military and his administration proposed stripping protections for transgender people facing healthcare discrimination.
Asked on Saturday for a comment on the video, Trump's campaign pointed to a tweet posted Friday night in which Trump adviser Jason Miller said "somebody's getting fired" over the DeSantis campaign's post. Miller did not elaborate.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative group that advocates for gay rights, said Republicans need to stand up against "radical Left gays" but that DeSantis had gone too far.
"DeSantis and his team can't tell the difference between commonsense gays and the radical Left gays," the group said in a tweet late on Friday, saying the presidential hopeful "has just ventured into homophobic territory."
(Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; Additional reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and by David Brunnstrom in Washington; editing by Jonathan Oatis)