Bachmann, religious right group back off claim black children better off during slavery

Rep. Michele Bachmann. Photo: Jeff Storjohann, Carroll Daily Times Herald Rep. Michele Bachmann. Photo: Jeff Storjohann, Carroll Daily Times Herald

Image by: Matt MahurinThe Family Leader, an Iowa religious right group that has been active in GOP caucuses of that state, backtracked on a pledge the group released last week that asked candidates to vow to oppose pornography and same-sex marriage. The pledge contained a controversial statement about slavery, and over the weekend, the Family Leader removed that reference. Rep. Michele Bachmann — the first signer of the pledge — said that she wasn’t signing off on the preamble that contained the slavery reference, only the vows themselves.

“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President,” the pledge’s preamble began.

The insinuation that children living in slavery were better off than children today sparked outrage from many quarters, including Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who called the pledge “offensive” and “unrepublican.”

On Saturday, Bachmann’s campaign said it stood by the pledge. Campaign spokesperson Alice Stewart told that Bachmann “has no second thoughts about signing the pledge.”

“She stands by the points that are outlined in the pledge,” she said. “Particularly the ones for strong marriage. She’s been happily married for 32 years. That’s the focus of the pledge.”

But by Sunday, furor over the slavery passage forced a concession by the campaign. It forwarded a statement by the Family Leader to the press that apologized for the slavery reference.

The group wrote:

“After careful deliberation and wise insight and input from valued colleagues we deeply respect, we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued, and such misconstruction can detract from the core message of the Marriage Vow: that ALL of us must work to strengthen and support families and marriages between one woman and one man. We sincerely apologize for any negative feelings this has caused, and have removed the language from the vow.”

And then Bachmann’s campaign attacked the slavery reference, leaving her support for the entire pledge intact.

“In no uncertain terms, Congresswoman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible,” said spokesperson Stewart, adding that Bachmann “stands behind the candidate vow — which makes absolutely no reference to slavery.”

But that statement drew a renewed round of fire from some who thought the reference to “economic enslavement” belittled the seriousness of 400 years of slavery in America.

“Trying to move on from a charge that the candidate had, at the very least, shown poor judgment in using slavery to score a cheap political point, Bachmann’s campaign added that the candidate believes ‘economic enslavement is also horrible,’” wrote Forbes magazine’s Osha Gray Davidson. “Bachmann’s camp didn’t explain what the phrase ‘economic enslavement’ means, but apparently, the candidate has once again reduced the horrors of historical slavery to a talking point on her presidential quest.”

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