It has become a common trope for politicians: Provide red meat to constituents by promising to reduce the size of the federal workforce.
A top presidential candidate this week echoed that proposal, but used some novel language to describe his potential actions.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who is in a distant second place in most polling of the 2024 Republican presidential field, told supporters in New Hampshire he would slit the throats of federal bureaucrats on his first day in office.
The governor has frequently used fiery rhetoric and has not shied away from high profile fights, but the comments were met with swift pushback.
“We’re going to have all these deep state people,” DeSantis said at a barbecue in Rye, N.H., when speaking about the federal bureaucracy, according to reporting from New Hampshire Public Radio. “We’re going to start slitting throats on day one.” The DeSantis campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Conservatives have frequently accused the federal workforce—particularly during the Trump administration—of engaging in shadow operations to prevent the implementation of right-wing initiatives, often referring to those efforts as the “deep state.”
DeSantis in particular has based the foundations of his campaign around the notion that government—and private corporations—have become too “woke,” and vowed to dismantle public institutions he sees as perpetuating those efforts.
The governor previously vowed to, if elected, eliminate the departments of Commerce, Education and Energy, as well as the Internal Revenue Service. He promised to make cuts to some workforces across the government and said he would take power away from unelected bureaucrats who have presided over an "accumulation of power over decades."
The American Federation of Government Employees said federal workers have dedicated their lives to serving the country and DeSantis’ comments demonstrate he should not be president. AFGE has already endorsed President Biden for reelection.
“Gov. DeSantis’ threat to ‘start slitting throats’ of federal employees is dangerous, disgusting, disgraceful, and disqualifying,” AFGE President Everett Kelly said.
“These public servants deserve respect and commendation from our nation’s leaders. No federal employee should face death threats from anyone, least of all from someone seeking to lead the U.S. government.”
He called for DeSantis to retract his comments, adding he has positioned himself “within the shameful tradition” of violence and public workers.
Several federal agencies last year ramped up security around their facilities and told employees to stay vigilant after a wave of threats against government workers.
The threats followed a search for documents at President Trump’s residence in Mar-a-Lago and the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and the funding it provided for new staff and authorities to several agencies.
A version of this story was first published on Government Executive.