Harris: ‘Ridiculous’ to have to say slavery had no benefits

Vice President Kamala Harris is doubling down on her rebuke of new Florida education guidelines that call for the teaching of how enslaved people benefited from slavery. 

In an interview Monday with ABC News’s Linsey Davis, Harris dismissed allegations that her response to these guidelines is “ideological posturing.”

“I think that this is just a matter of whether one chooses to speak fact and truth or not, and its pretty much that simple,” said Harris. “I don’t think this is up to any ideological debate to say that people who were enslaved did not benefit from slavery, period. 

"It almost seems ridiculous to have to say what I just said, that enslaved people do not benefit from slavery,” Harris continued. “There are so-called leaders, extremists, who are attempting to require in our nation an unnecessary debate with the intention, I believe, to try and divide us as Americans. Stop. Stop.”

Harris has been among the top voices to criticize Florida’s new education guidelines, going as far as to accuse the Florida Department of Education and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) of creating a “revisionist history.” 

“They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it,” Harris said earlier this month at Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.’s 56th national convention in Indianapolis. “We who share a collective experience in knowing we must honor history and our duty in the context of legacy.”

Later, the nation’s first Black vice president traveled to Jacksonville, Fla., a predominantly Black city in the Sunshine State, and accused Republican leaders of “pushing propaganda” on children. 

Black leaders around the country have condemned the lesson, along with another lesson that discusses how acts of violence were perpetrated against and by African Americans, including the Tulsa Race Massacre and the 1920 Ocoee Massacre. 

DeSantis, who is campaigning for president, has defended the guidelines, saying that the state's education department “did a good job with those standards." 

He has also accused Democrats, including Harris, of lying about Florida’s educational standards “to cover for their agenda of indoctrinating students and pushing sexual topics onto children.” 

But the growing criticism has also come from within DeSantis’s own party. Black conservatives have called for the standards to be reviewed

It’s unclear if the guidelines will be changed at all, but the fallout so far has come as DeSantis’s competitors for 2024 have begun to gain on his second-place position for the GOP nomination. 

Harris's comments with Davis are part of a larger interview set to air Monday night. The full interview will include her thoughts on reproductive rights and the way Black history is taught in schools.

Congressional Black Caucus endorses Jeffries for Democratic leadership

The Congressional Black Caucus has endorsed Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to be the Democratic leader in the House.

In a tweet sent on Wednesday, the CBC highlighted that Jeffries would become the first Black American to lead a major political party in Congress.

“Congressman Jeffries is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and served as House Democratic Caucus Chairman throughout a period of enormous turmoil for our nation,” the CBC said. 

“Despite this, Jeffries led Democrats to unprecedented legislative successes. From surviving the longest government shutdown in history to the impeachment of a lawless president, a once-in-a-century pandemic, resulting economic crisis, reckoning with systemic racism, a violent insurrection, the inauguration of a new President, an insurrection, and a second impeachment. We are confident Congressman Jeffries will continue building upon his leadership experience and working to create a better future for all Americans in his historic role as the first Black lawmaker to lead a major party in congress as the Democratic Leader for the 118th Congress.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Nov. 17 that after two decades of leadership, she would step down from her spot at the head of the party. Jeffries announced his candidacy for the position the following day, sending a letter to his fellow Democrats asking for their support. 

Leadership voting will take place behind closed doors on Wednesday, and Jeffries is expected to win without challenge. 

At 52, Jeffries has served five terms in office and been a staunch advocate for social and economic justice. 

In January 2020, Pelosi selected Jeffries to serve as one of seven House Impeachment Managers in the Senate trial of former President Donald Trump, becoming the first Black man to serve in that role. 

Though Republicans won control of the House on Nov. 8, Jeffries’ ascension will set him up to become the first Black Speaker of the House if Democrats regain control in two years.

The caucus also released endorsements for Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) for Democratic whip; Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) for Democratic caucus chair; Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) for assistant Democratic leader; Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) for Democratic caucus vice chair; Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) for Democratic policy and communications (DPCC) chair; Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) for DPCC co-chair; and Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) for DPCC co-chair.

‘Fighter until the end’: McEachin remembered by Congressional Black Caucus

Congressional Black Caucus members have been mourning the death of fellow member Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) — who they called an “extraordinary statesman” and “tireless advocate” — after he died from cancer Monday night. 

“It is with profound sadness that we join the people of Virginia and the McEachin family in mourning the loss of our dear friend and colleague, the honorable Congressman Donald McEachin,” the Caucus tweeted Monday. 

“Congressman McEachin was a tireless advocate for the people of Virginia and our nation. He dedicated his life to advancing America’s working families, creating economic opportunities, and promoting environmental justice for all. He leaves an unparalleled legacy of excellence and integrity, and we will honor that legacy with our continued dedication to the issues which he championed.”

McEachin’s death was announced Monday by his chief of staff, Tara Rountree, who said the congressman had been experiencing “secondary effects of his colorectal cancer from 2013.” 

McEachin was 61. His death has prompted an outpouring of support from individual members of the caucus as well.

“As a fellow member of @TheBlackCaucus, I was proud to work with Don on issues ranging from Black Maternal Health and HBCUs to the preservation of African American Burial Grounds,” Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) tweeted. 

“Don was an extraordinary statesman, and always kind,” she added in another tweet. “My prayers are with Don’s wife Colette, their children, their family and friends, and all of Congressman McEachin’s staff who supported him in service of Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District.”

Adams said McEachin was a fighter for the state of Virginia, and he shared his personal fight with cancer to “inspire others to get screened and see their doctor.”

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said McEachin was a friend and called him “a dedicated public servant and a fighter until the end.” He added that McEachin’s voice and passion will be missed. 

Rep. Val Demings (D-Florida) said in a statement she was “deeply saddened” by McEachin’s passing. 

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., stands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., as she announces her impeachment managers during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“We came to Congress together, where he was a leader and a friend,” Demings said. “He was a man of faith and conviction who truly understood what it meant to stand up for the ‘least of these.’ Despite his personal health challenges, he was devoted to his constituents, and he showed up to do the work. He was a tireless fighter for health care, gun safety, civil rights, and environmental justice. His commitment and that legacy will live on, but I will miss him.”

Fellow Virginia representative Bobby Scott (D) paid tribute to McEachin in a statement that called him a “thoughtful and principled legislator and respected by people on both sides of the aisle.” 

“He was also a trail blazing figure in Virginia politics – being the first African-American nominee of a major party for Virginia Attorney General and only the third African-American elected to Congress from Virginia,” Scott said. 

“Donald was resolute in pushing Virginia to lead the way in climate policy. He was also one of Congress’s strongest champions for environmental justice, fighting to ensure that our most vulnerable communities have access to clean air and water. The Commonwealth and our nation have lost one of its most dedicated public servants and fiercest advocates for justice and equality.”

McEachin came to Congress in 2016 after serving in both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly. 

Born in Nuremberg, Germany, on Oct. 10, 1961, McEachin was the son of an Army veteran and a public school teacher.

He graduated from American University with a degree in political science and from the University of Virginia School of Law. In 2008, he received his Master of Divinity from The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University.

He was a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and the NAACP. 

“Donald wholeheartedly represented his home state of Virginia and was unyielding in his fight for environmental justice in Congress,” NAACP CEO and president Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “We will miss him and his determination to improve our environment for the next generation.”

At the time of his death, McEachin sat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Natural Resources Committee and Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

On Tuesday, flags were at half-staff at the White House and the Capitol in honor of McEachin.