GOP candidates caught in slavery controversy
July 11th, 2011
09:38 AM ET
10 years ago

GOP candidates caught in slavery controversy

Washington (CNN) – Republican presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum sought to clarify their support of a pledge that contained a controversial preamble suggesting black children born into slavery had better family structures than black children now.

The excerpt has been removed from "The Marriage Vow - A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family," a pledge issued by the conservative Christian organization The Family Leader.

The Family Leader is an important socially conservative group in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, holding sway over the state's traditionally more conservative caucus goers who influence the fate of presidential campaigns.

A spokesman for former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania told CNN Monday he was "pleased" to sign the pledge, but agreed with the Leader's decision to remove the language about slavery.

"Senator Santorum was pleased to sign the Iowa Family Leader's pledge because he is committed to standing up for traditional marriage. The bigger question here is why aren't more Republicans having the courage to stand up for the institution of marriage and signing this pledge," Virginia Davis said in an email. "With that said, Senator Santorum believed it was the right thing for the Iowa Family Leader to remove the language from the preamble to the pledge about slavery."

Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart, who confirmed the Minnesota congresswoman signed the pledge, said Sunday "In no uncertain terms, Congresswoman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible."

The passage causing the stir read, "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 section's end note cited "The Consequences of Marriage for African Americans: A Comprehensive Literature Review" from 2005 - before Barack Obama was elected president.

The Family Leader said in a statement last week that the purpose of the pledge "is to have on record the personal convictions of each presidential candidate as it relates to the issue of marriage. The signing of the pledge will be a requirement for future endorsement" by the Iowa-based group.

The slavery excerpt was the first bullet point in the original pledge's preamble; "The Candidate Vow" begins the second page of the pledge. It is not clear whether Bachmann or Santorum read the preamble before signing the candidate vow.

The pledge requires signatories "to defend and to uphold" the institution of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Each signing candidate must also promise personal fidelity to his or her spouse and recognize that "robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security."

Other provisions include supporting the enactment of safeguards for married and unmarried military personnel from sexual harassment and the "rejection of Sharia Islam."

Pledges have become an important feature in this election cycle, forcing candidates to take a hard line stance over social and fiscal issues. CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen said these agreements are constraining for candidates.

"Pledges are proliferating in political campaigns and people are being asked to sign up to things that, in this case, are way out of bounds," Gergen said on CNN Sunday. "In other cases they lock their hands so they can't act."

He pointed specifically to the no new tax pledge, pushed by conservative crusader Grover Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform. Two-hundred and thirty House members and 40 senators, almost all of them Republicans, signed the pledge. Gergen said that agreement is now constrictive in the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations.

"That means they have promised while in Washington they will never raise taxes," Gergen said. "That makes it very, very difficult to try to reach and foster some sort of compromise to get us out of the debt problem."

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • Michele Bachmann • Rick Santorum
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. dave

    I wonder if it is true and how did they reach that conclusion and what does it have to do with opposing gay marriage.

    July 11, 2011 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  2. Tracy Martin

    These people cannot be taken seriously if they believe such nonsense. The practice of slavery included ripping children from their mother's arms and father's were routinely sold off. I mean, come on.

    July 11, 2011 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  3. Derek

    Candidates in trouble for signing a stupid pledge? Who would have thunk it?

    July 11, 2011 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  4. Intelligent

    ENOUGH – Instead of the Scarlet letter A lets apply the new scarlet letter 'S' for STUPIDITY. These people are beyond sensitivity training, this is appalling. And they want us to let them run the country. Whats wrong with the American people.

    July 11, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  5. Sandi Swanson

    270 Republican leaders signed this pledge to the great detriment of this country. Their political aspirations come before the welfare of the people they were elected to serve. No surprises there.

    July 11, 2011 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  6. Cfrench

    Honestly, does any of this surprise you? Republicans, espacially the tea-bagging type, stand for bigotry, sexism and hatred of anyone different than themselves. I think these pledge signers are going to discover that the radical right will only harm their campaigns.

    July 11, 2011 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  7. Ponter B

    Yeah this group doesn't sound like a bunch of fundamentalist nutters at all. Seriously, what happens to you in life to turn into something like this?

    July 11, 2011 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  8. David S.

    Republicans never cease to amaze me...

    July 11, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  9. Sybaris

    What is this? Berlin 1939?

    July 11, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  10. Wes B.

    All of these pledges are so stupid!

    July 11, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  11. Dr Mickster

    No its not true. You may not know it, but we should all expect a person who seriously thinks they're qualified to be president to. We should all be embarrassed by these two, independent of party affiliation. I guess they'll sign anything for a vote.

    July 11, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  12. Randy, San Francisco

    Shame, shame shame. They are so used to throwing red meat at their social conservative wingnut followers that their explanations ring false. Sad to see GOP/Tea Party candidates court social conservative organizations that still pracice hate and intolerance so openly.

    July 11, 2011 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  13. Rexben

    Does any one really take these people seriously?

    July 11, 2011 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  14. Max

    Why is it, that, everytime these two, plus Palin, open their mouths it is all about race, race, race? Is this your way of throwing fear into please of non-color. Please, go and say this to a black man/woman, to their face. I'm talking about those that get up every morning, kids off to school, both parents to work. Slavery brought and sold people of color, whether you had family or no family, and you are saying we were better off, along with no freedom! Also, marriage, leave it alone, mine your own business. Bachmann, how's Minnesota during right now? Go home and see if you can help fix it, than come back and run. Santorum, PA was not happy with you, and I can't find anything to say nice to you, so I will just not say nothing at all.

    July 11, 2011 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  15. roro

    These two are absolutely nuts. They're so afraid that whites will become the minority that they're signing pledges to encourage people to have more white babies. And to say black slave children were better off than the black children of today is just an abomination (a word they love to use). What the heck is going on in this country? They keep promising jobs and no tax hikes, but then all they really work for are these social issues. Santorum, go away. Bachmann, who has so far done nothing in the House, go to work.

    July 11, 2011 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  16. SayWhat

    Anyone who signs a pledge, particularly one created by a religious organization, clearly evicences that they are not qualified to hold high office. If you want to pander to a certain group, just tell them that you wiil take care of them, so long as the campaign contributions keep rolling in. That's how you do it with corporations and it should be no different with reactionary religious groups.

    July 11, 2011 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  17. Tony

    The passage in the pledge said: "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."

    You have to hand it to these Republicans. They know how to offend anyone who is not White Anglo-Saxon Protestant better than everyone else.

    July 11, 2011 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  18. Name king

    Oh yea like you can change some people mentality, it always finds a way to sneak out. I guarantee that if they were backed by the tea baggers these repug candidate would have never change their views. When are these repugs are going to quit backing themselves in a corner, reducing themselves to work for the American people day after day after day, when they finish signing their abilities to help the most extreme fanatic Americans, their will be nothing left to help the masses of americans that are moving on in the world, and have the ability to keep up as the world changes at massive speed. Tell these repugs that we are no longer in the dark ages; we know the world is not flat anymore, we have planes that flies, heck we even to the moon and now looking to go on a planet. You thought there was a great uprising when the repugs started taking folks personal interest when the repugs took over through lies a misinformation what would they do when the repugs takes over all the branches of the federal government and reimpliment the policies that brought our great nation into the worst economic disaster none of us in this country have ever saw.

    July 11, 2011 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  19. shelou

    Really, Bachmann did not take time to read something and understand it correctly?Tthe Bachmann on the Intell Committee? Isn't this always her excuse. I don't think the Bible tells her to create a persecution army and go after US American taxpaying citizens and their beloved children, either.

    July 11, 2011 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  20. Sandy

    Darn! I was hoping that Bachman would knock Mitt out of the running. Oh, well, looks like she just killed her campaign with this racist and anti-American pledge.

    July 11, 2011 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Evidently the {R} in front of these people's name now stands for "Retard".
    You just can't make this stuff, nor these folks up.
    Running to run the country 12feet into the ground.
    Obama 2012.

    July 11, 2011 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    So whaddayathink, did CAIN sign pledge # 235675432?
    So many pledges, so little time and action.

    July 11, 2011 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  23. Sandy

    Republicans and their stupid pledges. How dumb can the Republicans be? Lawdi lawdy!!

    July 11, 2011 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  24. Dan, TX

    Christianity is in trouble if these are its representatives.

    July 11, 2011 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  25. Puzzled

    Ehmm, "upholding marriage" is the pressing issue of our time? Unemployment, jobs, nat'l deficit, two wars, negative trade balance, leveling taxes fairly, yes, against the rich too, alternative energies and more.
    And Bachmann and Santorum can't think of anything else but making stupid pledges about marriage between a man and a woman??? (Have they taken a look at the heterosexual divorce rates lately??)

    It shows how lost the GOP candidates are, at least the fundamentalist ones: no ideas about solving our real problems. Instead they sit on a perceived moral high horse of social issues, where they think themselves superior. Well, wrong again. They want 'less government" yet try to tell citizens how to live their private lives. How sorry these candidates are!!

    July 11, 2011 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
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