Byron Donalds of Florida and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina resisted the new slavery curriculum, and James, a Black freshman lawmaker who was the GOP candidate in two tight Senate races in 2018 and 2020, blasted DeSantis for attacking them on X, the social media site that replaced Twitter.
"Number 1: Slavery was not a CTE! There was absolutely no "net benefit" to my forefathers from those 400 years of evil. Two: You're criticizing two of the five black Republicans who are now serving in Congress. If you find yourself in a big hole, lay the shovel down, my brother in Christ," the lawmaker added.
You have strayed so far from the Lincoln Party that your school board is rewriting history and you are personally criticizing conservatives on the issue of slavery, including @VoteTimScott and @ByronDonalds. That's too far for you. Stop," he emphasized.
The revised state education standards for middle school students require teachers to include instruction about "how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit"; this has sparked a firestorm among top Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who last Friday criticized DeSantis over the new standards and again on Tuesday during a ceremony honoring a new Emmett Till national monument.
But what has many people turning their backs is the opposition from Black conservatives, who ordinarily would support practically any Republican presidential candidate.
Prior to endorsing Trump's run for president in 2024, Donalds, who spoke at DeSantis' election-night celebration in November, called the updated standards "robust" and "accurate" earlier this week.
On the other hand, he added that "the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong" and "needs to be adjusted."
Donalds continued, "That obviously wasn't the goal & I have faith that FLDOE will correct this," referring to the Florida Department of Education.
When reporters in Iowa questioned DeSantis about the remarks after hearing about them, he retaliated against Donalds.
At the end of the day, you have a decision to make: Will you support Florida's state government or Kamala Harris and liberal media outlets? said the governor. "I believe it is quite evident that these men performed well in terms of those standards. Nothing about it was political in nature.
Donalds appeared on Fox News on Friday, when he blamed the DeSantis campaign for the controversy.
Just to be clear. I don't even have a complaint," stated Donalds. "I only have a problem with one sentence out of the entire 200-page document. And the DeSantis campaign wants to turn it into a huge deal? That is absurd.
Scott criticized the governor on Thursday over the state's teaching of slavery. Scott has been surging in the Republican presidential polls lately, which might endanger DeSantis' present position as the most formidable challenger to former President Donald Trump.
"The real purpose of slavery was to split up families, mutilate people, and even rape their wives. The senator told reporters, "It was really devastating. So I would hope that everyone in our country would respect it, and certainly anyone running for president.
"People have bad days," Scott continued. They occasionally regret what they say. We should also re-ask them to explain their perspectives.
Scott was addressed by DeSantis as well, who said that Republicans in Washington "all too often accept false narratives" and "accept lies that are perpetrated by the left."
The governor made the statement while making a campaign stop in Iowa. "The way you lead is to fight back against the lies, is to speak the truth," he added. "I'm here to defend Florida against false accusations and lies, and we'll keep speaking the truth," the speaker said.