U.S. Sen. Tim Scott isn’t backing down from his criticism of fellow GOP presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis over his state’s proposed guidelines for teaching about slavery. The South Carolina Republican called the controversy a “hot mess that isn’t necessary” during a podcast interview with NHJournal Friday.
DeSantis has been under fire for days over Florida’s K-12 history curriculum, recently approved by the state board of education. The dispute is over a single line in the more than 200-page document stating, “Slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
Vice President Kamala Harris flew to Florida to denounce DeSantis over the state’s new education guidelines.
“In place of facts, extremists in Florida want to erase our full history and censor our truthers,” Harris tweeted. “We will not stand for it.”
DeSantis defenders point to the fact the same content is in the AP African-American studies curriculum released by the College Board. “At the end of the day you’ve 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 Thursday during a campaign stop in Iowa.
Scott, the only Black Republican in the U.S. Senate, has been critical of DeSantis’ stance, and he reiterated that criticism to NHJournal.
“What I said isn’t controversial at all: Slavery has no redeeming benefit, no redeeming value,” Scott said. “There’s no silver lining in slavery. We founded this nation upon the notion of freedom. Slavery is a deprivation of freedom. It is antithetical to who we are. That doesn’t need to be explained. That just needs to be digested.
“Truth be told, whether you’re Kamala Harris or Ron DeSantis, having an opportunity to restate your position against slavery is always something that should be welcomed by all people: Conservatives, liberals, Black, White, rich, poor, red, blue. It doesn’t really matter,” Scott added.
“When we’re distracted by slavery and other issues that are a couple of hundred years old, we find ourselves once again entangled in a hot mess in the rearview mirror that isn’t necessary.”
As for the suggestion he was siding with the vice president, Scott said, “Let’s remember that Kamala Harris also signed off on an education curriculum that included ‘benefits of slavery.”
In the same interview, Scott went out of his way to defend former U.S. Senate colleague Kelly Ayotte from accusations she played the race card in comments about illegal drugs making their way from Massachusetts to New Hampshire via the cities of Lawrence and Lowell. Ayotte, who announced her candidacy for governor on Monday, kicked off her campaign by warning that “we are one election away from turning into Massachusetts.”
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen drugs, the fentanyl being trafficked off our southern border from Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts, into our cities, and it’s killing our citizens,” Ayotte added.
Massachusetts politicians and members of the Bay State media condemned her remarks, with Jon Keller of WBZ-TV claiming Ayotte “invoked a racially-tinged trope by blaming New Hampshire’s drug problems on two Massachusetts border cities.” A Boston Globe columnist suggested Ayotte’s support for parental rights is about protecting “White children” from indoctrination.
And Lowell City Manager Tom Golden, a former Democratic state representative, said Ayotte owes the communities an apology.
Scott offered a passionate defense of Ayotte.
“I served with her in the Senate. I can tell you one thing about Kelly that everyone should hear, and let me say it clearly: She doesn’t have a racist bone in her body,” Scott said.
“I don’t know all the candidates running for governor. I’m not speaking [regarding] her launch for governor. I am speaking to the character of the person that I served with shoulder to shoulder for years. One thing she has is great compassion for people going through hard times. And the other thing she has is a strong sense of leadership to protect her citizens. And so I will simply say that drugs, no matter where they come from, are terrible for the population that is impacted by them.
“So let’s not make something into a racial issue when it’s not a racial issue,” Scott added.
Sources with Scott’s campaign said the senator plans to return to the Granite State in the next two weeks. His most recent appearance, at a VFW call in Salem, N.H., was greeted with positive reviews. Ironically, Scott was introduced at the event by former state Sen. Chuck Morse, who is also running against Ayotte in the GOP gubernatorial primary.
In Iowa Friday night, DeSantis showed no sign he was backing down from the controversy over his state’s new curriculum. In his speech at the Republican Party of Iowa’s 2023 Lincoln Dinner, he said, “I got Kamala Harris coming down to Florida trying to create phony narratives because she understands Florida has stood up to the left’s agenda. We have beat the left’s agenda in the state of Florida. And so she thinks she can come down and lie about what we’re doing in the state of Florida,” DeSantis told the crowd in Des Moines.
“I’m not budging an inch. We are going to fight back against these people. And we are not letting them take over our schools any longer. We are going to get this right as a nation.”