Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' appearance at a Honda dealership in Brandon, Fla., to sign legislation prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates was widely seen as a nod to a euphemistic insult of President Joe Biden.
But the head of the dealership group that owns Brandon Honda says he made "zero connection" in advance of the Republican governor's visit between the store's name and the "Let's go Brandon" chants that have broken out at recent Republican events.
"I do not support any disrespect of President Joe Biden," Morgan Auto Group CEO Brett Morgan said in an email to Automotive News last week.
Morgan said DeSantis is a friend and asked to use the dealership, which previous governors occasionally used for public events. Morgan said he and his father, Chairman Larry Morgan, got vaccinated as soon as they could and have encouraged employees to do so as well but think mandating the shots is an "overreaching policy that could threaten our relationship with up to 20 percent of our nearly 5,000 employees."
DeSantis, who several weeks ago referred to the White House as the "Brandon administration," didn't directly answer a question about the reason he traveled to Brandon. Video taken at the event shows some supporters wearing "Let's go Brandon" T-shirts.
American Honda said it tells dealers they should avoid getting involved in political events.
"Honda does not endorse political candidates, parties or events," the company said in a statement, "and out of respect to our customers we strongly discourage our independently owned dealers from hosting political rallies at their dealerships."