ANKENY, Iowa – U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina has criticized fellow Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for supporting new standards that require teachers to instruct middle school 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,” Scott, the sole Black Republican in the Senate, told reporters on Thursday after a town hall in Ankeny. “So I would hope that every person in our country — and certainly running for president — would appreciate that.”
“People have bad days," Scott added. "Sometimes they regret what they say. And we should ask them again to clarify their positions.”
DeSantis has been facing criticism from Florida teachers, civil rights leaders, President Joe Biden's White House and even Black Republicans on the school standards. Vice President Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black vice president, traveled to Florida last week to condemn the curriculum.
DeSantis fired back on Friday, saying that “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.”
Campaigning in Iowa, he added that he was “defending” Florida “against false accusations and against lies. And we’re going to continue to speak the truth.”
The back-and-forth marked a shift in campaign styles for both DeSantis and Scott, who have not directly critiqued each other and have instead focused much of their antagonism toward President Joe Biden. It also comes as DeSantis’ effort has endured a mid-campaign reset, making staffing cuts to accommodate campaign expenses.
Another Black Republican presidential candidate, former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, has also criticized DeSantis over the curriculum, as have Reps. Byron Donalds of Florida, Wesley Hunt of Texas and John James of Michigan, Trump allies who are among a handful of Black Republicans in Congress.
Scott’s comments came as he and DeSantis stumped in Iowa before the state Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner. At that gathering, 13 candidates in the GOP presidential primary field, including front-runner Donald Trump, will be addressing an expected 1,200 activists on Friday. Scott, part of the GOP's most diverse presidential field ever, was asked for his opinion on the standards hours after DeSantis defended them to reporters.
“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 said, citing Democrats' criticism of the wording on slavery. “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 Scott's video, a super PAC supporting DeSantis on Thursday night called the posts “incredibly sloppy or intentionally disingenuous," reposting video of DeSantis' defense of the curriculum earlier in the day.
Kinnard reported from Columbia, S.C., and can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.