Tim Scott rebukes DeSantis for new Florida Black history curriculum

Senator Tim Scott slams fellow GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis for supporting new teaching standards suggesting Black people benefitted from slavery

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Friday 28 July 2023 14:30 BST
Related video: Kamala Harris blasts Florida officials for book bans and changes to Black history curriculum

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has criticised fellow Republican presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for supporting new standards that require teachers to instruct middle school history students that slaves developed skills that “could be applied for their personal benefit”.

“What slavery was really about was separating families... about mutilating humans and even raping their wives. It was just devastating,” Mr Scott, the sole Black Republican in the Senate, told reporters on Thursday after a town hall in Ankeny, Iowa.

“So I would hope that every person in our country — and certainly running for president — would appreciate that.”

He then conceded: “People have bad days. Sometimes they regret what they say. And we should ask them again to clarify their positions.”

Governor DeSantis has been roundly criticised by Florida teachers, civil rights leaders, and President Joe Biden's White House on the new school standards.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black vice president, travelled to Florida last week to condemn the curriculum.

Mr Scott’s comments came as he and DeSantis stumped in Iowa ahead of the state Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, a gathering at which 13 candidates in the GOP presidential primary field will be addressing an expected 1,200 activists on Friday.

The senator, part of the GOP's most diverse presidential field ever, was asked for his take on the standards hours after Mr DeSantis defended them during a gaggle with reporters as he campaigned.

“At the end of the day, you got to choose: Are you going to side with Kamala Harris and liberal media outlets or are you going to side with the state of Florida?” Governor DeSantis told reporters, citing Democrats' criticism of the language.

“I think it’s very clear that these guys did a good job on those standards. It wasn’t anything that was politically motivated.”

Responding on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, to reporters' posts of Mr Scott's video, a super PAC supporting DeSantis on Thursday night called the posts “incredibly sloppy or intentionally disingenuous," reposting video of Mr DeSantis' defence of the curriculum earlier in the day posted by his wife Casey DeSantis.

The group highlights the Florida governor as saying: “That was in spite of slavery, not because of...”

Podcaster Brian Tyler Cohen responded: “The new education standards tell schools to teach that Black people ‘benefited’ from slavery by giving them ‘skills’.”

He added: “You’re not even disputing it. The fact that you’re doubling and tripling down may help explain why you just had to lay off a third of your staff.”

With reporting by the Associated Press

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