Ron DeSantis on why he’s standing his ground against Kamala Harris: ‘It’s wrong to let false narratives stand’

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CONCORD, N.H. –Gov. Ron DeSantis says he is “ready to roll” when it comes to debating face-to-face with Vice President Kamala Harris in the controversy over a line in Florida’s new African American history curriculum that mentions “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Hours after sending a letter to Harris inviting her to come to Tallahassee to debate him, DeSantis told reporters on Tuesday that he had invited the vice president “to come to Florida to debate Florida’s education standards.”

The Republican presidential candidate, during a retail campaign stop at a diner in New Hampshire’s capital city, argued that Harris “seemed to have a lot to say about it. None of which has been true. And so, we are ready to have that debate.”

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When asked by Fox News if he had heard back from Harris or the vice president’s office, DeSantis said “she has not” responded to the invitation.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, speaks with the breakfast crowd at the Windmill Restaurant on Concord, New Hampshire, on Aug. 1, 2023. (Fox News – Paul Steinhauser)

Fox News reached out to the vice president’s office but did not receive a response at the time this story was published.

Harris was traveling to Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday to address the oldest African American Protestant denomination in the world. The vice president was scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. ET to the AME 20th Women’s Missionary Society Quadrennial Convention.

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The vice president’s trip comes just over a week after Harris traveled to Jacksonville, Florida, where she charged in a speech that Sunshine State officials “want to replace history with lies.” Speaking days after Florida’s Board of Education unveiled its new approach to Black history in a 216-page document,” the vice president argued that “extremist” leaders were aiming to “push propaganda to our children” and that the new curriculum would teach that “enslaved people benefited from slavery.”

Vice President Kamala Harris rails against Florida’s new Black history curriculum during a speech in Jacksonville, Florida, on July 21, 2023. (Fox News)

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DeSantis initially dismissed criticism over the new standards by saying he was not responsible. During a campaign event in Utah on July 21, the governor defended the curriculum but also said, “I didn’t do it. I wasn’t involved in it.”

He has also repeatedly returned fire at the vice president, accusing her of trying to “demagogue” about Florida’s new standards.

“Our state pushed forward nation-leading standalone African American History standards — one of the only states in the nation to require this level of learning about such an important subject,” the governor wrote Monday evening in his letter to Harris. “One would think the White House would applaud such boldness in teaching the unique and important story of African American History. But you have instead attempted to score cheap political points and label Florida parents ‘extremists.’ It’s past time to set the record straight.”

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DeSantis, who made headlines earlier this year by blocking an advanced placement African American studies course from being taught to Florida high schoolers, accuses the Biden administration of misinformation and blames Harris for initiating the controversy.

“She came to Florida to attack us, and she’s trying to attack me,” DeSantis charged on Tuesday as he answered a question from Fox News Digital. “But she’s really attacking the people that worked hard on this and have done a lot of yeoman’s work. And so that’s just wrong. I think it’s wrong to let lies be perpetuated. It’s wrong to let false narratives stand.”

DeSantis argued “let’s put the money where the mouth is. What she criticized our working group having done, she supported a similar in the AP African American history course that she endorsed earlier this year. How do you square that circle. It’s all just politics and trying to pursue an agenda.”

Florida’s education standards have faced bipartisan criticism – including from four of the five Black Republicans on Capitol Hill. That list includes Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who like DeSantis is running for the White House, and Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, who has endorsed former President Trump in the 2024 GOP presidential nomination race.

DeSantis pushed back at Scott, as well as Donalds, who said he approved of the overall curriculum but urged Florida’s Department of Education to correct the controversial line.

“The new African-American standards in FL are good, robust, & accurate,” Donalds said on social media last week. “That being said, the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted. That obviously wasn’t the goal & I have faith that FLDOE will correct this.”

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) speaks during the Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors national summit at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown on June 30, 2023 in Philadelphia. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

DeSantis then targeted Donalds for his criticism of the controversial line of the education standards by saying the congressman was taking the side of the vice president.

“You got to choose: Are you going to side with Kamala Harris and liberal media outlets or are you doing to side with the state of Florida?” DeSantis asked Thursday during a campaign stop in Iowa.

DeSantis told “Special Report” host Bret Baier on Monday evening that “I feel a need to defend my state.”

Pointing to the team that put the standards together, the governor said “this went to the State Department of Education. They were following state law. ” And he argued that “it’s wrong demean their work. And here’s the thing. If I wasn’t running for president, or I wasn’t who I was, no one would have cared about this.”

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DeSantis on Tuesday pointed to political adviser William Allen, who helped approve Florida’s curriculum and who criticized the vice president’s comments. 

“Dr. Allen, who’s an African American history scholar, ready to educate the vice president on the great work that they did,” DeSantis said.

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire. 

Ron DeSantis on why he’s standing his ground against Kamala Harris: ‘It’s wrong to let false narratives stand’

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