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News Busters
Newsbusters
22 Jul 2023
Alex Christy


NextImg:PBS Cheers 'Uniquely Qualified' Harris Attacking Florida's New History Standards

Washington Post contributor Gary Abernathy and associate editor Jonathan Capehart joined PBS NewsHour’s Geoff Bennett to recap the week that was by not only excluding any mention of the House hearing on IRS whistleblowers alleging improper interference in the Hunter Biden investigation, but finding consensus that Vice President Harris is correct to attack Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s new history standards.

Bennett put the ball on the tee for Abernathy by noting “I want to raise the trip that the vice president, Kamala Harris, made to Florida today. It was a last-minute trip, and she was tackling changes to the state's education standards that appear to play down the horrors of slavery.”

Specifically, “The Florida Board of Education voted this week to approve revised Black history curriculum that includes instruction how slaves actually benefited from slavery because they learned some skills.”

In Florida’s new guidelines, there are 191 references to “slave,” “slaves,” or “slavery,” and the media is hyper-focused on only one of them. Nevertheless, Abernathy replied, “Yeah, it's ridiculous. I don't know what the fear is of teaching Black history, of teaching the horrors of slavery, of teaching what a horrible chapter in our history was. There's nothing to be afraid of with that teaching. It's — you know what? We’ve downplayed it too much in the past.”

Abernathy also added “And it's absolutely — I'm going to agree with Kamala Harris, in a rare instance, this time on what she's saying. And I have never understood what DeSantis' problem is or anyone else with teaching accurate history about the horrors of slavery in this country.”

Turning to Capehart, Bennett wanted to know what Harris’s role in this controversy is, “Jonathan, how do you see it? And tell me more about the vice president's role in tackling cultural issues, to include this, abortion and so on.”

Naturally, Capehart agreed, “Why are we afraid to talk about the nuances and complexities of our history, of American history, of Black history?”

As for Harris, he pronounced himself to be a big fan, “The vice president going down to Florida, going right into the heart of the matter to talk about this is a great thing, because she is uniquely qualified to talk about this, as the first Black woman, the first South Asian American to hold the office of vice president.”

Harris, he alleged, “speaks about issues of race, when she speaks about issues of culture, when she speaks about issues of choice, she is speaking from the heart. And that is the most genuine she can be. And it is an asset to the Biden/Harris ticket as they go into a presidential election in '24 where those issues are going to be paramount.”

While Abernathy and Capehart found themselves in agreement on this issue, the former did manage to frustrate the former earlier when he said of all former President Trump’s legal challenges, “I think there's just — it's bad for this country to try to — when you're the Biden DOJ, going after your primary political opponent has a very bad look to it.”

This segment was sponsored by viewers like you.

Here is a transcript for the July 21 show:

PBS NewsHour

7/21/2023

7:39 PM ET

 GEOFF BENNETT: Jonathan, taking what the former Vice President Mike Pence, had to say, given that he was targeted by Donald Trump and his supporters on January 6, he, of all of the Republican candidates, would be able to draw the strongest, the biggest contrast on that particular issue. And yet he chooses not to.

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Yeah, and he chooses not to, and it's shameful. His life was in danger that day; 535 members of Congress, their lives were in danger that day. The fact that the only person in the Republican race right now is Governor Chris Christie who is willing to say things as the way they are just shows how far the Republican Party has fallen.

I'm old enough to remember Donald Trump on the campaign trail in 2016 saying it would be a mistake for the American people to vote for someone who's under a federal investigation. Donald Trump now has two criminal indictments, maybe others coming down the road, and yet he's got a party that is circling the wagons around him, including a guy whose own life was threatened by it.

It is-- it's unbelievably shameful, unbelievably shameful. And one thing about what Gary said about, let's end this cycle of retribution, the retribution started with Donald Trump. And ending the cycle would be surrender. It would be surrender to authoritarian forces trying to take over our democracy.

GARY ABERNATHY: Well, let me say what Donald Trump did on January 6 — and I have said everything he did after losing that election to deny losing that election has been bad for this country and bad for democracy.

But being bad for democracy, bad for the country is not the same as being criminal. And I think there's just — it's bad for this country to try to — when you're the Biden DOJ, going after your primary political opponent has a very bad look to it.

BENNETT: We have a couple of minutes left. And I want to raise the trip that the vice president, Kamala Harris, made to Florida today. It was a last-minute trip, and she was tackling changes to the state's education standards that appear to play down the horrors of slavery.

The Florida Board of Education voted this week to approve revised Black history curriculum that includes instruction how slaves actually benefited from slavery because they learned some skills. I see you shaking your head.

ABERNATHY: Yeah, it's ridiculous. I don't know what the fear is of teaching Black history, of teaching the horrors of slavery, of teaching what a horrible chapter in our history was. There's nothing to be afraid of with that teaching. It's — you know what? We’ve downplayed it too much in the past.

And it's absolutely — I'm going to agree with Kamala Harris, in a rare instance, this time on what she's saying. And I have never understood what DeSantis' problem is or anyone else with teaching accurate history about the horrors of slavery in this country.

BENNETT: Jonathan, how do you see it? And tell me more about the vice president's role in tackling cultural issues, to include this, abortion and so on.

CAPEHART: Wow. Well, Gary and I are in 100 percent alignment on this. Why are we afraid to talk about the nuances and complexities of our history, of American history, of Black history?

The vice president going down to Florida, going right into the heart of the matter to talk about this is a great thing, because she is uniquely qualified to talk about this, as the first Black woman, the first South Asian American to hold the office of vice president.

When she speaks about issues of race, when she speaks about issues of culture, when she speaks about issues of choice, she is speaking from the heart. And that is the most genuine she can be. And it is an asset to the Biden/Harris ticket as they go into a presidential election in '24 where those issues are going to be paramount.