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. Patrick

    Any document that contains: "Slavery was bad, but....." is probably coming from a conservative source. Hilarious, and pretty much par for the course for these people.

    July 11, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  2. TM

    Including that passage was NO mistake. The candidates are not sorry is was included, they are sorry that they got CAUGHT openly supporting racism. AGAIN.

    July 11, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  3. kyle

    Slave parents were sold at the drop of a hat, and not to mention the slave master fathering many of the children, how is that better.

    July 11, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  4. Conclusion how?

    Did they spend millions of dollars on historical research during the several hundred year long history of slavery and apply a weighted average by population by year and compare that to some kind of time/population adjusted weighted average of our current society?

    Maybe they went back in time using their magical Tea Party powers and took surveys of all geographic regions with slaves across all time periods and compared that to a current census studies?

    Perhaps they just made all this up because they knew their paranoid, race-baiting white constituency would eat it up no questions asked.

    What do you guys think?

    July 11, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  5. John

    I don't know why all these group have these Republican sign these pledge, have you ever seen a Republican keep there word. All they do Is LIE. They say something one day ,than the next day they say they didn't say that. Republican all they do Is LIE. By the way where are all the JOBS republican promise when they ran on It In 2010.Just another LIE.

    July 11, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  6. Kevin

    This just shows how low the GOP has sunk. As an African American man and single father whose raised 4 boys on my own I'm highly offended. To say my sons were better off being slaves than to be raised by me is an insult not just to every African American, but every AMERICAN. People need to relalize what the GOP has truely become, a group of HATE mongers. I'm afraid this is only the beginning of the hate which will come from the GOP this upcoming election season. They have no new ideas about the economy, so they will go to their tride and true tactic FEAR.

    July 11, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  7. Jeff in Virginia

    What's the issue here? Santorum and Bachmann admitted to being crazy frothing-at-the-mouth right wingers. And now they are LYING in their attempts to moderate their persona. Good luck with that!!

    July 11, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  8. JIm

    How can Obama win reelection? By having the Republican party nominate Bachmann, Santorum, or Palin. "Robust childbearing and reproduction" ! Is it their idea to relegate women to breeding machines?

    July 11, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  9. Publius Novus

    I think we have had about enough of these idiotic "pledges." This is nothing but kowtowing to special interest groups.

    July 11, 2011 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  10. Bill

    Why should they have to sign any "vow?" Shouldn't fidelity be a given?

    Guess not with these folks (aka – any politician).

    July 11, 2011 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  11. Sniffit

    "You would think that, as politicians, they would be sensitive to any language that might be damaging"

    That language isn't damaging. Contemporary GOP/conseervatives love "White Man's Burden" type of "reasoning"...and right now, these imbeciles are runnign to win a primary. They'll show they're true colors to the base and pander to them extensively and then try to hide it all, soften it and walk things back during the general election unless they get some poll results here or there that have them so overexcited that they forget themselves and overreach (i.e., what frequently happens of late). They are completely and utterly oblivious to how condescending they sound to towards the minority community and the working poor, but these knids of borderline racist dogwhistles work wonders with their base. Watch...we'll not doubt get an obscenely ignorant post or two from people claiming that it is, in fact, the fault of the Dems and their Medicare, SS and the welfare system socialist policies that minority and inner city youth grow up parentless, undereducated and with an overwhelming sense of helplessness.

    July 11, 2011 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. GI Joe

    Again I will say .......

    Fascism will come in the front door wearing a flag and carrying a cross ............................

    July 11, 2011 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    To paraphrase what the GOP kept saying about healthcare, " Read what's in the pledge". The difference, though is that the healthcare bill was thousands of pages long, and I doubt this was anywhere near that. What will their excuse be now: another "gotcha" moment, or is it Obama/Clinton/ Carter's fault? The lack of personal responsibility by the GOP for their actions is nothing short of breath-taking. Can't wait for the clips to show up on Youtube.

    July 11, 2011 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  14. Eye of Newt

    "Sanctimonious" and "Mrs. Flake" are such idiots! And all this wonderful entertainment is free.

    Uh, that is, unless you are one of the fools actually contributing to one of these disgusting hypocrites.

    July 11, 2011 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  15. Ron in California

    Clearly, the passage is insensitive. There was nothing good about slavery in any way. I can't second guess them but I think what they were attempting to point out id that, the family unit is the basis for our society . It is true in some communities there is a higher incidence of family dysfunction and breakdown. When this happens there are serious consequences not only to the family members but society.

    July 11, 2011 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  16. rs

    Actually, looking at what appears to be the Republican/Tea Party economic plan (i.e. give only to the super-rich), it becomes clear that they in fact not only believe in slavery, but seem to be actively trying to build a permanent poor underclass so they can bring it back!

    July 11, 2011 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  17. vet in texas

    Yet another example of the tea party not really being what they said they were. If you are for the constitution, then there shouldn't be any pledge that needs to be signed, especially before you get into office and take the only "pledge that matters".

    I wonder how they would have felt if Obama signed a pledge for the NAACP for their vote........exactly.

    "they are what we thought they were" – Coach Denny Green

    July 11, 2011 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  18. Al-NY,NY


    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

    100% agreed. She would have been SO done so early and would not even win her own state. These pledges and the groups that extort "compliance" are truly dangerous. I want to hear from the other candidate about their outrage at the wording of this pledge and how it's detrimental to everything American................waiting..............waiting...........Beuller?

    July 11, 2011 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    "It is not clear whether Bachmann or Santorum read the preamble before signing the candidate vow."

    Whether they read it or not is well past irrelevant. They signed it. If they signed it without reading it, what does that say about them professionally.

    July 11, 2011 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    And now we know what "take the country back" means. They want to restart The Civil War.

    July 11, 2011 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  21. ptown

    I would rather be the child of a single black parent then a slave any day. That should bring the black vote to these stupid candidates....

    July 11, 2011 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. JoeSchmo2000

    Good to see that these candidates are securing the absence of any LBGT votes if they become the republican candidate chosen to take on Obama. Pretty funny. Keep up the good work. I swear, they are going to keep themselves out of office. Which is perfect.

    July 11, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  23. citizen

    this does not surprise me at all....... Bachmann is also the person with the husband stating gays are barbarians that need to be punished....

    July 11, 2011 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  24. Retired Army in San Antonio

    Yet another counter-productive pledge for spineless Republicans to take. It's sad how these morally weak individuals literally sell off their authority and responsibility in order to gain and hold onto public office.

    Absolutely Shameful 🙁

    July 11, 2011 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  25. GrogInOhio

    I want them to sign a pledge that says they'll focus on "jobs, jobs, jobs" instead of utterly insane right-wing nonsense.

    July 11, 2011 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
1 2 3 4