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. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    yet BOTH of them signed it while the statement was STILL THERE! Does this mean either they don't read things before they sign them or they really don't care only trying to score politcal points? And if people want either of them to be POTUS I think they seriously need to have their heads examined.

    July 11, 2011 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  2. GI Joe


    We know what you signed and we know what you meant. TOO LATE.

    July 11, 2011 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  3. LawDude813

    So.. seriously... How the crap do you manage to pin children not being born in a two parent household to Obama? By this point, I understand these repubs want him out of office, but come up with legit arguments and stop being stupid please...

    July 11, 2011 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  4. Dean

    , "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."

    ------Since only 40% of African-American families today are headed by a married couple, this is probably a true statement.

    July 11, 2011 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  5. Sniffit

    The POTUS "signs" ONE pledge that trumps ALL others: the oath of office. End of story. Pledges like this should be considered a threat of divided loyalty, period, and anyone with a brain in their head who wants the POTUS, WHOEVER that may end up being, to make decisions in an informed, educated and objective manner should seriously question the creeping fascism evidenced by GOP/conservative "purity" tests and oaths.

    July 11, 2011 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  6. diridi

    well, they are GOP thugs, and idiots....what do you expect??????????????out of Rich....same way...right?????

    July 11, 2011 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  7. Boytjie

    Didn't the Republicans pledge to focus on jobs, jobs jobs? Oh, wait, nobody made the SIGN that pledge so they don't have to really follow through.

    And how long before one of the signers are caught cheating on a spouse?

    July 11, 2011 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  8. Ms. N.

    The Republican Party (and it's lunatic fringe off-shoot, the Tea Party) have become irrelevant IMHO. Society has evolved to a level of social norms that simply don't 'fit' their way of thinking and it drives them crazy. Why else would what are probably relatively 'normal' people, go to such extremes to draw people to their side. Sadly, they still get elected albeit not by the majorities they once enjoyed. What a shame.

    July 11, 2011 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  9. skinman

    Here we go again. Let's frame two or three words out of a republican's mouth, take it out of context, and burn them at the stake while casting racial stones at them. Do you libs know anything about Bachmann's story and background?

    CNN will do anything to keep the Socialists...I mean Democrats in power. Don't they know what's best for everyone?

    July 11, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  10. the unsub

    complete and utter insanity!

    July 11, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  11. Concerned American Citizen

    I am DUMBFOUNDED with the things these people come up with! I can only hope the American people see this for what it is...NONSENSE!

    July 11, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  12. The Real Tom Paine

    You would think that, as politicians, they would be sensitive to any language that might be damaging ( and that statement goes beyond damaging). Unfortunately, the GOP has morphed from a party that talked about personal and economic freedom into a group that demands Stalin-esque loyalty pledges, then tries to deflect attention from their mistakes by attacking the POTUS ( as if he forced them to sign). The fact that its Bachmann and Santorum is some cause for relief, since these two are easily the most delusional candidates in recent memory, but the fact this langage was put into this pledge should raise a huge red flag to independents contemplating a vote for the GOP: ask yourself, what other pledges have the GOP candidates made, and what are the real-life consequences for that? We are already seeing how the pledge of loyalty to Grover Norquist has turned the Debt Ceiling debate into political Russian Roullette, with possible catastrophic consequences. The people who say its not big deal are NOT the ones who have been trying to deal with this issue in any responsible way. The idea that Bachmann is now tied or leading in Iowa should give pause to anyone with any real education or life experience that being held hostage by a pledge to people who only care about power is NOT in the national interest. If they needed to sign a pledge, than they were never serious about anything except pandering for primary votes, and that rarely translates into good, workable policy.

    July 11, 2011 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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."
    Gee, considering that the RIPPING APART of family units was standard practice during slavery times, there is nothing left to say but that the Retards,er, Rethugs are lying....yet again.
    It's almost as if they wanted to subtly imply that the first African-American U.S. president was responsible for that as well.
    Republicans have become America's out in the open most shameful secret, and the fact that there are still ANY of them around after they continually show "their true colors" is beyond intelligent, human comprhension.

    July 11, 2011 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  14. Leroy Tischauser

    If the GOP candidates sign many more pledges they won't have to think for themselves at all. Somehow I don't think that has ever been a problem for Republican candidates.

    It is far easier for a Republican candidate to recite slogans and platitudes than to think. Look how far Palin got doing that.

    July 11, 2011 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  15. Philojazz

    "SayWhat" was right on the money with the posting "Anyone who signs a pledge, particularly one created by a religious organization, clearly evidences that they are not qualified to hold high office."
    So, how about this, you Republican Presidential wanna-be's....."READ MY LIPS....NO NEW PLEDGES!" Hey, it's a start.

    July 11, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  16. American

    It is scary in this day and age that people like this cannot comprehend or recognize a horrible system which treated people as property and completely demolished all of their rights (to include the one that this pledge is supposedly trying to preserve). As conservative "Christians" you would hope that they truly would understand the source of the values they are trying to uphold.

    July 11, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  17. ricky

    i really want Bachmann to be president. she is so smart and will lead this country back.................NOt. Republicans want nothing for the average american trying to raise a family. Their mentallity of "what american people want" is so far out there. I know what I want and I don't need someone to speak it for me, I can do that.Especially someone like Palin,Bachmann or any Republican that doesn't care about me.

    July 11, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  18. zip

    Ah, the stink of right wing filth. 20 years ago these imbeciles would have been laughed off the stage if they ran for dog catcher. Now they are front and center in the GOP race for president. Are we really going to let this trash drag this country into the sewer? Really?

    July 11, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  19. SecedingfromTexas

    We had better take these people seriously. They have a following that will do anything, say anything, threaten
    anybody, and take down America as we know it, to gain power. They are going after anyone who does not
    tow the line, sign their pledges, and swear their allegiance to them. The obstructionist Reublicans are so
    scared, they are willing to allow the US credit rating to be minimized, allow default on already obligated funds,
    and kiss the rings of the Koch brothers. The defenders of these people are all over the map. One day they
    love Palin, then Bachmann, then Pawlenty, they can't decide who would be the most disastrous to America.
    We had better take them seriously.

    July 11, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  20. Bill NY

    These are the people who want to run this country. The slave family structure consisted of a mother or father who could be sold or traded to another slave owner. It was not uncommon for slave owners to rape slave and father children of slave women. Yep. Sounds like a pretty solid family structure to me.

    July 11, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  21. Peter s

    Time has passed by! in the 21st Century there is no willing slave seller and slave buyer! silly me what is HR for? .At the door declare yourself!!

    July 11, 2011 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  22. Peter s

    In the 21st Century there is no willing slave seller nor slave buyer but slavery still exists in work places.

    July 11, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  23. Derek Wain

    There is no "slavery controversy" other than the imagined one conjured up by the media jackals of the MSM.No one outside the Demented Left echo chamber gives a hoot for thei "interpretations" of Bachmann's views.
    Juan Williams wrote:
    "Whenever the press spotlights one of her stumbles,the Minnesota congresswoman gets a flood of support and money. She becomes ‘Every Woman,’ a misunderstood Tea Party mother of five facing down an elitist, arrogant, Obama-leaning press corps."
    "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on."
    7/10/11 Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has surpassed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in a recent Iowa poll that was conducted by
    Bachmann received support from 25 percent of likely Iowa caucus goers in the poll, while Romney is backed by 21 percent.

    July 11, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  24. Calaban007

    The truth will set you free, but it will pi$$ you off first.

    July 11, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  25. PubliusK

    Are you kidding me? And the conservative movement against Obama has nothing to do with race? Keep saying it.........but the less refined part of your party (most of them) will give it away every time.

    July 11, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
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