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GOP candidate Will Hurd slams Ron DeSantis’ defense of Florida’s slavery curriculum

Former US Representative and 2024 Republican Presidential hopeful Will Hurd speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa’s 2023 Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 28, 2023. (Photo by Sergio FLORES / AFP) (Photo by SERGIO FLORES/AFP via Getty Images)

Sergio Flores | Afp | Getty Images

Former Texas Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican presidential contender, on Sunday slammed his opponent Gov. Ron DeSantis for defending Florida’s new public school standards that teach that some Black people benefited from slavery because it taught them useful skills.

“I was the first Republican to come out and say that slavery is not a jobs program,” Hurd said in an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “And anybody that is implying that there was an upside [to] slavery is insane.”

“Real leadership would have stepped up and said, ‘Hey, there is no upside to slavery. Slavery was not a jobs program,'” Hurd said. “But this is one more part of a fact pattern of Ron DeSantis being mean and hateful.”

NBC News has reached out to DeSantis’ campaign for comment.

The Florida State Board of Education’s new standards include language asserting that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” according to a 216-page document posted by the state.

The language has sparked widespread backlash. Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, criticized the standards in recent a visit to Florida, saying the changes aim to “replace history with lies.”

DeSantis has deflected criticism to the state education board, which he appoints, while also defending the changes.

“I didn’t do it and I wasn’t involved in it,” DeSantis said when asked by reporters about the Board of Education’s wording in its guidance for teaching about slavery.

“But I think — I think what they’re doing is, I think that they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into, into doing things later in life,” he continued, referring to enslaved people. “These were scholars who put that together. It was not anything that was done politically.”

A few of DeSantis’ Republican opponents, including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as well as Black Republicans in Congress have chided him over the new public school standards. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, another 2024 GOP contender, told NBC News “it’s an absurd idea” to think that slavery benefited Black people.

Hurd, whose father is Black, was one of the few Black Republicans when he served in Congress. Currently, there are five Black GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate.

The former Texas representative delivered a scathing attack of former President Donald Trump on Friday during a dinner in Iowa, the state that holds the first caucuses, with hundreds of influential activists — and was booed as he left the stage.

“Donald Trump is not running for president to make America great again,” Hurd said, invoking Trump’s slogan before bringing up the legal troubles surrounding him, including a superseding indictment approved by a grand jury last week. “Donald Trump is running to stay out of prison.”

Asked about the incident on Sunday, Hurd said: “I knew there were going to be people that didn’t like it.”

“I was there to talk to the people that believe in personal responsibility, that believe character matters, that believes service matters, that believes that the United States has a role in the world and it’s important to us back here at home,” he added.

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