Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) campaign went after a conservative congressman from his state after he criticized an aspect of the state’s new African American history standards.
Vice President Kamala Harris and other critics have painted the new guidelines as “revisionist history,” and opposed the inclusion of language stating that slaves learned specialized skills, “which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
“Adults know what slavery really involved. It involved rape. It involved torture. It involved taking a baby from their mother,” Harris said last week. She later added: “How is it that anyone could suggest that, in the midst of these atrocities, that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization?”
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, similarly criticized the language about slaves learning skills that could benefit them, but called the new standards overall “good, robust & accurate.”
“That being said, the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted,” Donalds tweeted Sunday. “That obviously wasn’t the goal & I have faith that FLDOE will correct this.”
Donalds’ tweet drew immediate backlash from the DeSantis campaign.
“Did Kamala Harris write this tweet?” wrote DeSantis’ rapid response director Christina Pushaw.
“Supposed conservatives in the federal government are pushing the same false narrative that originated from the White House,” wrote DeSantis’ press secretary, Jeremy Redfern. “Florida isn’t going to hide the truth for political convenience. Maybe the congressman shouldn’t swing for the liberal media fences like [Harris].”
Redfern noted in a separate tweet that the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies course (which Florida originally rejected over concerns about critical race theory) also contained language about former slaves using skills they learned “to provide for themselves and others.”
Donalds responded to the backlash from DeSantis’ camp Wednesday night, saying that “anyone who can’t accurately interpret what I said is disingenuous and is desperately attempting to score political points.”
“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 wrote.
Donalds then went on to reiterate his March endorsement of former President Donald Trump over his home state governor for the 2024 presidential election, though the two-term congressman has avoided directly criticizing DeSantis.
In April, Donalds said that while DeSantis is “the best [governor] in the country,” Trump is “the guy that can get the job done on day one” on the economy, immigration, and foreign policy.
A poll conducted by Marquette Law School from July 7-12 found that Trump holds a 24-point lead over DeSantis for the Republican nomination—up 19 points since March, before DeSantis entered the race.
However, the same poll found that registered voters slightly favored DeSantis over Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up against Biden. Those surveyed were evenly split when asked about a rematch between Biden and Trump, but preferred DeSantis to Biden 51-48.