Republican gubernatorial nominee for Florida Ron DeSantis took to TV Wednesday night in a bid to clean up the controversy he provoked by urging voters earlier in the day to not "monkey" up the election by casting a ballot for his black opponent, Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum.

"It has zero to do with race. It has everything to do with whether we want Florida to continue to go in a good direction, building off the success, or do we want to turn to left-wing socialist policies which will absolutely devastate our state?" DeSantis said during an interview on Fox News. "And here’s the thing, I believe people should be judged based on their ability and character regardless of race."

"But it’s because of that I know that socialism won't work in Florida. It's not good for any race, color, or creed. So, this is not about race," he said. "This is about ideas and principles. And I’m not going to let the Democrats and Andrew Gillum try to obscure a debate about whether his tax increases, his single payer healthcare plan, his desire to abolish ICE, whether that is something that's acceptable for Florida. "

[More: Fox News host says 'we do not condone' Ron DeSantis' 'monkey this up' comment referring to black opponent]

DeSantis had only just earned his party's nod on Tuesday after Florida held its primary contests before he attracted widespread scorn for his comments.

Supporters quickly jumped to the defense of Gillum, who is vying against the Trump ally to become the first black governor in the state’s history, given how the word "monkey" has been co-opted in the past to demean African-Americans.

Gillum hit back on Wednesday in his own slew of TV interviews, arguing that DeSantis' use of the racially charged phrase showed how Trump's "whistle calls" had escalated into "full bull horns."

DeSantis and Gillum will face off on Nov. 6 in the general election to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott.