1:20 PM PT -- Fox News says, "We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that [DeSantis] has since clarified his statement."
DeSantis says characterizing his remark as anything other than voters making "the wrong decision" is absurd.
Florida's gubernatorial race got seriously racial when Republican candidate Ron DeSantis dropped a "monkey" comment while talking about his Democratic opponent ... who is black.
DeSantis is fresh off winning the Republican primary, and while on Fox News Wednesday morning ... he was asked about going head-to-head with Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum.
DeSantis said, "The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda."
There was no pause or attempt to re-phrase -- so, either he didn't realize what he'd said, or it's blatant racial dog-whistling.
Whichever it is ... DeSantis says he's the one to lead Florida in a "good direction."