In Iowa, Ron DeSantis found himself squabbling with a reporter about a Florida controversy.
After a meet-and-greet event in Chariton, Iowa, the Governor was asked about the state’s 216-page set of guidelines on teaching Black history. Specifically, DeSantis was asked to weigh in on the document’s assertion that people may have benefited from learning skills while enslaved.
“That’s not what the curriculum says,” DeSantis argued.
For pre-Civil War lessons, middle school students must be taught “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” per a new benchmark clarification.
But DeSantis continued to joust with the reporter.
“You have, I think it’s like 200-plus pages of all kinds of stuff that you can’t read that,” DeSantis said, using awkward phrasing before he turned the heat on the reporter, asking, “Have you read it?”
The reporter then responded, asking DeSantis what his “opinion” was.
“You haven’t read it. So I’m just making that clear, that makes it very clear about the injustices of slavery in vivid detail. So anyone that actually read that and then listens to Kamala would know that she’s lying, and that particular provision about the skills, that was in spite of slavery,” DeSantis said.
The Governor naming “Kamala” was, of course, a reference to Vice President Kamala Harris, who denounced the standards in a speech last week in Jacksonville.
“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?” she said. “That in the midst of these atrocities there were some benefits?”
The Governor’s response to Harris’ speech has become more pointed during the six days he’s had to answer media questions on the topic.
“They’re probably going to show that some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Utah on Friday after Harris’ speech.
He’s leaned into sharper comments since, condemning Harris for pushing a “hoax” about the standards.
He told a Fox News interviewer the standards “talk in gory detail, a lot of the bad in American history, including, of course, the injustice of slavery. But she is trying to perpetuate a hoax and I know they’re using it to attack me because (Joe) Biden’s administration and Harris has been attacking me since they got in office and they’re always attacking Florida.”
Civil rights leaders who have watched DeSantis closely dismiss his explanations that critics are cherry-picking a single line from a broader set of guidelines on social studies curricula. And, according to National Review, at least one of the team tasked with developing the standards, Volusia County African-American history teacher Valencia Robinson, said she wouldn’t be opposed to amending the controversial provision, noting that the word “benefit” may not appropriately convey the group’s original intent in developing standards.