Rep. Byron Donalds pushes back against Democratic criticism after saying ‘the black family was together’ during Jim Crow


Florida Representative. Byron Donalds, a Republican seen as a potential running mate for Donald Trump, defends himself against Democratic criticism over comments he made Tuesday suggesting that black families were “together” during the era of Jim Crow racial segregation.

Donalds’ comments, which come as Trump’s campaign seeks to win over non-white voters, were made during an event in Philadelphia with the Texas representative. Wesley Hunt, another black Republican supporter of the former president.

“You see, during Jim Crow, the Black family was together,” Donalds said at Tuesday’s event, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“Under Jim Crow, not only were more black people conservative — because black people have always been conservative-minded — but more black people voted conservatively,” he said.

This ended, he suggested, because of a culture of dependency promoted by the federal government’s welfare system in the 1950s, notably with the creation of the Department of Health, Education and of Welfare – the federal agency now known as the Department of Health and Human Services –. and the civil rights efforts that followed under President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s.

“And then HEW, Lyndon Johnson – you go down this path, and now we are where we are,” Donalds said.

In an interview with CNN’s Abby Phillip on “NewsNight” Wednesday night, Donalds acknowledged that black Americans are better off today than they were during the Jim Crow era, and he doubled down on his argument that which black marriage rates were higher before enactment. of several social welfare programs under the Johnson administration.

“All I was doing was referencing the periods where you’re talking about historical timelines in America and that coincide with black families and what their marriage rates are in black families,” Donalds said.

“No one has ever done nostalgia, that has never been the subject. It wasn’t even about that,” he added. “I did not say that. I didn’t even imply that.

Donalds’ comments drew harsh rebukes Wednesday from President Joe Biden’s campaign, which said on X: “Byron Donalds, Trump’s running mate, claims life was better for black people Americans during Jim Crow,” as well as from other Democrats.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries went to the House after the votes to denounce Donald.

“It’s a wild, outrageous and blunt observation,” the New York Democrat said Wednesday. “We were not in a better situation when a young boy named Emmett Till could be brutally murdered without consequence because of Jim Crow. We were not in a better situation when black women could be sexually assaulted without consequence because of Jim Crow. »

He added: “How dare you make such an ignorant observation? You better check yourself before you destroy yourself.

Rep. Steven Horsford, the Nevada Democrat who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement that Donalds’ comments reflect “a trend toward racist ideologies that we see time and time again within the MAGA Republican Party.”

“Rep. Donalds is playing his role as a spokesperson who will say out loud the quiet parts that many won’t say themselves,” Horsford said.

Donalds also responded in a video posted to X on Wednesday, saying Biden’s campaign and Jeffries should “check your sources and stop lying to the American people.”

“They’re trying to say I said black people were better off under Jim Crow. I never said that. They’re lying,” Donalds said.

“What I said was that there were more black families under Jim Crow, and it was Democratic policies under HEW, under the welfare state, that helped destroy the black family. That’s what I said,” he said. “I also said that we’re seeing a reinvigoration of black families in America today, and that’s a good thing.”

CNN reported Wednesday that Donalds, among others, received varying levels of paperwork as part of the selection process to become Trump’s running mate, according to two sources familiar with the process.

The controversy over the congressman’s remarks comes as polls show Trump gaining ground with Black and Hispanic voters compared to his performance in the 2020 election. Although Philadelphia, where Donalds comments took place, is Overwhelmingly Democratic, Pennsylvania is poised to once again become one of the most important swing states in the November election.

The Biden campaign used Donald’s remarks in Philadelphia to attack Trump and his attempts to reach black voters. “From touting his photo to selling fake sneakers, Trump and his campaign have shown Black Americans how little they think of us – Black voters are about to show Trump just how little they think little of him, his allies and his racist program in November. said campaign spokesperson Sarafina Chitika in a statement.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Kit Maher, Aaron Pelish, Haley Talbot and Sam Fossum contributed to this report.

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