POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Some Utah Republicans endorsing DeSantis speak out about Florida slavery standards

Jul 25, 2023, 1:59 PM | Updated: Jul 26, 2023, 9:35 am

gov ron desantis speaks at a podium, utah lawmakers have responded to the governors stance on educa...

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Friday, July 21, 2023. (Jeffrey D. Allred/The Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/The Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Since Presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, made a campaign stop at Utah’s Capitol Friday, some have called for the members of Utah’s GOP who are endorsing him to speak out about Florida’s academic standard dealing with slavery.

Florida’s social studies academic standards about slavery include a standard that reads:

Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

DeSantis’ position on the slavery standard

DeSantis was asked to explain the policy when he met at Utah’s capitol Friday, flanked by more than a dozen members of Utah’s legislature.

The governor didn’t denounce the policy but rather explained that his appointed Board should be the one to answer questions.

“I didn’t do it, I wasn’t involved in it,” DeSantis said responding to a reporter’s question. “I think what [the Board of Education was] probably going to show [was that] some of the folks that eventually parlayed…you know…being a blacksmith into doing things later in life. But the reality is all of that is rooted in whatever is factual,” he said. 

Republican reaction

As DeSantis made these comments, Utah State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, could be seen in the background, commenting loud enough that Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, smiled in response.

“This part will be on CNN,” Weiler said about DeSantis’ explanation.

Weiler told Dave and Dujanovic Tuesday that he didn’t view DeSantis’ comments as something needing to be denounced.

 

“I agree [DeSantis] didn’t denounce [the slavery standard], I also didn’t hear him say that slavery was just a job program,” he said. “And I think opportunists are just trying to put words in his mouth.”

In a statement to KSL NewsRadio, Pierucci acknowledged the policy was problematic but said she still supports DeSantis for president.

“It should go without saying that slavery is evil and not beneficial to enslaved individuals,” her statement read. “I don’t agree or support the one item highlighted of the 191 comprehensive curriculum items listed by the Florida Department of Education’s curriculum standards.”

“I support Ron DeSantis in his run for the presidency,” Pieurcci said. “Governor DeSantis is a bold leader with a proven record of fighting for common sense policies, limited government, and empowering families.”

On Twitter, Utah State Sen. John Johnson, R-North Ogden, posted a link to the Florida standards with the caption, “Here are the Florida history standards in case anyone wants to know the truth.”

When asked for clarity on his position, Johnson’s initial response denounced slavery and any perceived benefit.

“I abhor the idea that slaves benefited from slavery,” he responded.

Subsequent follow-up questions from KSL NewsRadio about his support of DeSantis went unanswered. 

Democrats say standards minimize slavery

Utah’s Democrats issued a statement Sunday morning saying they had “deep concern” about the comments DeSantis made about the standard.

Former Rep. Elizabeth Weight echoed their statement and said she was “disappointed” the event was even held at the Capitol.


Rep. Rosemary Lesser, D-Ogden, told Dave and Dujanovic that DeSantis’ explanation of the social studies standard minimized the harmful effects of slavery.

“A more nuanced conversation would have been to acknowledge the incredible economic benefit that slaves’ work gave to their owners.”

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Some Utah Republicans endorsing DeSantis speak out about Florida slavery standards