Former Florida governor Charlie Crist said in a new TV interview Tuesday that he left the GOP because of the party’s racist and anti-gay views.
"I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there," Crist told Fusion’s "America with Jorge Ramos." "I was a Republican, and I saw the activists and what they were doing; it was intolerable to me."
Crist is now running for Florida governor as a Democrat and told the television station that he did not leave the Republican Party and become an independent in 2010 because he would have lost to Sen. Marco Rubio in a primary. He said he made the switch because the GOP’s leadership "went off the cliff."
"They’re perceived now as being anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-education, anti-environment," he said. Politico notes that Crist made similar remarks in his memoir.
"Sometimes," Crist wrote, as quoted by Slate, "the public’s feelings seemed partly racial. Sometimes, I’m sure they were not. But Barack Obama was the first African American in the White House. Florida had helped to put him there. And it was impossible to imagine an equal measure of virulence for any politician whose skin was white."
Crist wasn’t always for gay rights, however. The former Florida governor, who became a Democrat in 2012, supported the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2008. But it was reported in January that he apologized for backing the amendment.
"I’m sorry I did that. It was a mistake. I was wrong. Please forgive me," said. Crist said his previous statements against gay marriage and gay adoption were "politically expedient," adding, "it was wrong. That’s what I’m telling you. And I’m sorry."
In 2010 Crist told CNN he believed marriage was "a scared institution between a man and a woman" but by May 2013, he had shifted gears and announced his support for marriage rights for same-sex couples. He also said he supports non-discrimination protections in employment and adoption rights for LGBT people. He credited his change of heart to a perceived negative "anti" image of the Republican Party.