ANKENY, Iowa — Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican in the Senate, rebuked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday for new public school standards that teach that some Black people benefited from slavery because it taught them useful skills.
“As a country founded upon freedom, the greatest deprivation of freedom was slavery. There is no silver lining … in slavery,” Scott — like DeSantis, a GOP presidential candidate — said here in response to a reporter’s question after a forum with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
“What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives. It was just devastating,” Scott said. “So I would hope that every person in our country — and certainly running for president — would appreciate that. People have bad days. Sometimes they regret what they say. And we should ask them again to clarify their positions.”
The Florida State Board of Education’s new standards include language asserting that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” according to a 216-page document posted by the state.
The language has sparked widespread backlash, some of it from Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, who criticized the standards last week in a visit to Florida. Harris said the changes aim to “replace history with lies.”
DeSantis has deflected blame to the state education board, which he appoints, while also defending the changes and trying to reframe them as a political fight between him and Harris.
“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?” DeSantis told reporters at a stop in Iowa. “I think it’s very clear that these guys did a good job on those standards. It wasn’t anything politically motivated.”
Republicans have been critical, too. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another GOP presidential contender, has mocked DeSantis for deflecting blame. And Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida who has endorsed former President Donald Trump in the 2024 race, this week called on the state Education Department to “correct” the new standards.
DeSantis staffers lashed out at Donalds on Wednesday. Christina Pushaw, the campaign’s rapid response director, wrote in reply to a Donalds tweet: “Did Kamala Harris write this tweet?”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com