The decade's most triggering comedy
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fired back late this week at those who are promoting what he slammed as “lies” about Florida’s African American history curriculum in an apparent attempt to damage him politically as he campaigns for president.
The claims began circulating last weekend when Vice President Kamala Harris took a trip to Jacksonville, Florida, to attack the new curriculum, claiming that “in the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery.”
Harris seized on one sentence from the 216-page curriculum that noted that freed slaves at times used skills they learned and developed during slavery to help themselves later in their lives: “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
The language in the Florida curriculum is virtually identical to the language that the College Board includes in its current curriculum for AP African American Studies, which is available in thousands of schools across the U.S.
Dr. William Allen, former chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and Florida’s African American History Standards Workgroup member, blasted Harris, teachers unions, and anyone else promoting the allegations, saying that they are spreading “lies.”
The claims from Harris were then echoed by a few African American Republicans, including Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), who has endorsed former President Donald Trump in his 2024 campaign; Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who is running for president; Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-TX), who also endorsed Trump; and Rep. John James (R-MI), likewise a Trump supporter.
Donalds was the first to parrot Harris’ talking points, writing on Twitter on Wednesday: “The new African-American standards in FL are good, robust, & accurate. That being said, the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted. That obviously wasn’t the goal & I have faith that FLDOE will correct this.”
Manny Diaz Jr., Florida’s Commissioner of Education, responded directly to Donalds: “The federal government won’t dictate Florida’s education standards. This new curriculum is based on truth. We will not back down from teaching our nation’s true history at the behest of a woke @WhiteHouse, nor at the behest of a supposedly conservative congressman.”
The federal government won’t dictate Florida’s education standards.
This new curriculum is based on truth.
We will not back down from teaching our nation’s true history at the behest of a woke @WhiteHouse, nor at the behest of a supposedly conservative congressman. https://t.co/UOypM5tSJx pic.twitter.com/Npz022qBwe
— Manny Diaz Jr. (@CommMannyDiazJr) July 26, 2023
DeSantis also responded directly to Donalds, telling him: “Floridians should stand up for Florida. Don’t side with Kamala Harris and liberals who are demagoguing this.”
Gov. @RonDeSantis responds to attacks from the Trump campaign’s Byron Donalds:
"Floridians should stand up for Florida. Don't side with Kamala Harris." pic.twitter.com/DuMtpKz72U
— Never Back Down (@NvrBackDown24) July 28, 2023
Scott was the next to take an apparent swipe at DeSantis over the issue, telling reporters on Thursday: “What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans, and even raping their wives. It was just devastating. So I would hope that every person in our country — and certainly running for president — would appreciate that.”
DeSantis also responded directly to Scott: “Part of the reason our country has struggled is because D.C. Republicans all too often accept false narratives, accept lies that are perpetrated by the Left. And to accept the lie that Kamala Harris has been perpetrating even when that has been debunked, that’s not the way you do it. The way you lead is to fight back against the lies, is to speak the truth. So I’m here defending my state of Florida against false accusations and against lies. And we’re going to continue to speak the truth.”
“Part of the reason our country has struggled is because D.C. Republicans all too often accept false narratives, accept lies that are perpetrated by the Left. And to accept the lie that Kamala Harris has been perpetrating even when that has been debunked, that's not the way you… pic.twitter.com/oDfCPIKkwR
— DeSantis War Room 🐊 (@DeSantisWarRoom) July 28, 2023
Congressman Hunt then took the attacks to a new level on Friday, tweeting: “As the direct descendent of a slave, I have a hard time understanding Governor DeSantis’ position that transferrable skills learned in bondage are somehow a net benefit. If Ron DeSantis spent more time doing the job the people of Florida elected him to do and less time on his failing Presidential campaign, perhaps Florida’s curriculum on slavery would more accurately reflect the pain and heartbreak experienced by millions who suffered through the original sin.”
As was the case with the comments from Donalds and Scott, there was significant pushback online to Hunt’s remarks, including from Matt Rinaldi, who is the Chairman of the Texas Republican Party.
“This is a false statement, either uninformed or blatantly dishonest, and only helps the left,” Rinaldi said. “It’s possible to make a case for your preferred GOP primary candidate without sacrificing your credibility or repeating absurd race baiting Kamala Harris talking points.”
This is a false statement, either uninformed or blatantly dishonest, and only helps the left. It’s possible to make a case for your preferred GOP primary candidate without sacrificing your credibility or repeating absurd race baiting Kamala Harris talking points. https://t.co/3zyJ5y9gpu
— Matt Rinaldi (@MattRinaldiTX) July 29, 2023
DeSantis Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern responded to Hunt with a video of Dr. Allen, a top black academic who co-created the curriculum, disputing the talking point.
— Jeremy Redfern (@JeremyRedfernFL) July 28, 2023
Rep. James then appeared to take Hunt’s remarks about “net benefit” and put them in quotation marks, in an apparent attempt to either attribute the words to DeSantis or to the curriculum, even though DeSantis did not say those words and they do not appear in the curriculum.
“#1: slavery was not CTE! Nothing about that 400 years of evil was a ‘net benefit’ to my ancestors,” James wrote on Twitter. “#2: there are only five black Republicans in Congress and you’re attacking two of them. My brother in Christ… 🤦🏾♂️ if you find yourself in a deep hole put the shovel down. You are now so far from the Party of Lincoln that your Ed. board is re-writing history and you’re personally attacking conservatives like @VoteTimScott and @ByronDonalds on the topic of slavery. You’ve gone too far. Stop.”
Several prominent voices on the right responded to James online:
My “brother in Christ” here is bearing false witness. These claims about the curriculum have already been debunked numerous times, and he either knows this or is so grossly misinformed he doesn’t belong in public office. But this is too often the price of close alignment with… https://t.co/PXmJ7kBMor
— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) July 29, 2023
Where is this "net benefit" talking point coming from? Why are you putting it in quotes and attributing it as a direct quote to DeSantis?
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) July 28, 2023
Obviously they were sent their talking points, and they’re all repeating them. So embarrassing and shameful. Honestly disgusting https://t.co/9gQUj3HhOU
— Allie Beth Stuckey (@conservmillen) July 28, 2023
The matter became such an issue on social media that Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts, who has a Ph.D. in American history, issued a statement slamming the lies and defending the governor.
“The outcry over Florida’s African American History standards is absurd,” Roberts said in a statement. “That happens to be my academic field as a historian; I use to write extensively—including curriculum standards—on the topic. So I took some time to review Florida’s. The bottom line: they are excellent.”
“In my experience as a historian of African American history, Florida’s standards actually are a model for other states,” Roberts added. “They are comprehensive in topics covered, do not shy away from difficult topics, and—as history should—use examples of heroic people who fought oppression.”
Roberts also directly quoted from Florida’s state standards: “Instructional materials shall include the vital contributions of African Americans to build & strengthen American society and celebrate the inspirational stories of African Americans who prospered, even in the most difficult circumstances.”
“This controversy about FL’s history standards has nothing to do with history, which is accurately & beautifully captured,” Roberts added. “Rather, it’s all about politics and trying to knee-cap one of conservatism’s leaders. God bless @GovRonDeSantis for his courage amid this ridiculous fire.”
2/9 In my experience as a historian of African American history, Florida's standards actually are a model for other states. They are comprehensive in topics covered, do not shy away from difficult topics, and—as history should—use examples of heroic people who fought oppression.
— Kevin Roberts (@KevinRobertsTX) July 28, 2023
5/9 In no way does mentioning that "personal benefit" for some slaves, in some instances, amount to defending slavery or making slavery sound better–rather, it shows the amazing, heroic perseverance of enslaved people amid an evil system.
— Kevin Roberts (@KevinRobertsTX) July 28, 2023
9/9 This controversy about FL's history standards has nothing to do with history, which is accurately & beautifully captured. Rather, it's all about politics and trying to knee-cap one of conservatism's leaders. God bless @GovRonDeSantis for his courage amid this ridiculous fire.
— Kevin Roberts (@KevinRobertsTX) July 28, 2023