DeSantis’ team attacks Rep. Donalds in slavery curriculum debate

On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign went to war with a Black Republican congressman over DeSantis’ support of a middle school curriculum that includes instruction on “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

What You Need To Know

  • Rep. Byron Donalds is the third Florida Republican in the U.S. House to endorse, following similar announcements from Reps. Anna Paulina Luna and Matt Gaetz
  • The announcement comes as the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, attends political events across the country, but has not yet announced a long-rumored 2024 White House bid
  • Despite not officially announcing his candidacy, the endorsements are beginning to add up for the Florida governor: Republican Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Chip Roy of Texas have backed DeSantis for the White House next year

The updated academic standards put forth by Florida’s Department of Education have drawn widespread condemnation, including from civil rights leaders and the White House. DeSantis, who says he wasn’t involved in the curriculum’s creation, defended the standards on the campaign trail and through his administration.

Rep. Byron Donalds, a Black Republican representing southwest Florida who introduced DeSantis at his reelection victory rally last year, also praised much of the new Black history lesson plan. He called them “good, robust & accurate.”

“That being said, the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted,” the conservative congressman wrote on Twitter. “That obviously wasn’t the goal & I have faith that [the Florida Department of Education] will correct this.”

DeSantis’ campaign staff, government aides and political allies did not take kindly to Donalds’ minor criticism and began attacking the congressman, who endorsed former President Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary.

“Did Kamala Harris write this tweet?” asked Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ former press secretary and current campaign rapid response director. Last week, the vice president called the curriculum “lies” and “propaganda.”

“Supposed conservatives in the federal government are pushing the same false narrative that originated from the” White House, tweeted DeSantis’ government spokesperson Jeremy Redfern. “Maybe the congressman shouldn’t swing for the liberal media fences like” Harris.

Florida’s education commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr., responded indirectly later on Wednesday, saying “this new curriculum is based on truth.” He also sent a letter to Florida superintendents affirming the curriculum would be in place, unchanged going forward.

“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,” Diaz wrote.

Campaigning in Iowa on Thursday, DeSantis said the courses “makes it very clear about the injustices of slavery in vivid detail” and argued Advanced Placement courses, among others, make similar points about the skills slaves learned in bondage.

“So anyone that actually read that and then listens to Kamala would know that she’s lying,” he said. “And that particular provision about the skills, that was in spite of slavery not because of.”

“There can be no confusion,” he added.

Trump’s team leapt to Donalds’ defense, with senior adviser Jason Miller writing in a statement that the congressman “is a conservative hero” and that “Trump is honored to have his endorsement.”

“The Congressman also calls it like he sees it, and if he thinks something is BS, he’ll tell you,” Miller said. “For the OFFICIAL office of the Governor and (what’s left of) Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign to attempt to smear Congressman Donalds like this is a disgrace.”

On Thursday, Donalds was scheduled to appear on an episode of Donald Trump Jr.’s podcast.

“What’s crazy to me is I expressed support for the vast majority of the new African American history standards and happened to oppose one sentence that seemed to dignify the skills gained by slaves as a result of their enslavement,” Donalds tweeted on Wednesday night after the backlash. “Anyone who can’t accurately interpret what I said is disingenuous and is desperately attempting to score political points.”

“Just another reason why l’m proud to have endorsed President Donald J. Trump!” he added.

Pushaw and Redfern responded to the tweet with GIFs of the vice president.

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