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Chris Christie slams Ron DeSantis over Florida's new Black history curriculum

"DeSantis started this fire with the bill that he signed, and now he doesn’t want to take responsibility for whatever is done in the aftermath," the former New Jersey governor said.
Republican presidential candidate former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during a town hall  in Columbia, S.C., on Friday, July 21, 2023,
Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie at a town hall in Columbia, S.C., on Friday.Meg Kinnard / AP

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican presidential contender, went after his rival Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday over his response to the Florida Board of Education's new standards for how African American history will be taught in schools.

“DeSantis started this fire with the bill that he signed, and now he doesn’t want to take responsibility for whatever is done in the aftermath of it. And from listening and watching his comments, he’s obviously uncomfortable,” Christie said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The new history standards, which the board approved last week, teach students that some Black people benefited from slavery because it taught them useful skills. Updates to the curriculum were required by a 2022 law that DeSantis called the “Stop Wrongs To Our Kids and Employees Act,” or “Stop WOKE Act,” NBC South Florida reported.

Vice President Kamala Harris rebuked the new standards Friday, decrying them as an effort by extremist leaders to spread propaganda.

DeSantis swiftly pushed back on Twitter, accusing Harris and other Democrats of lying about the educational standards to “cover for their agenda.” He also dismissed Harris’ reaction as “absolutely ridiculous” and “totally outrageous” in brief remarks to reporters at the Utah Capitol.

Asked to respond to the board’s wording of the curriculum change, DeSantis said: “I didn’t do it, and I wasn’t involved in it.

“But I think — I think what they’re doing is, I think that they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into, into doing things later in life,” he continued, referring to enslaved people. “These were scholars who put that together. It was not anything that was done politically.”

Christie took aim at DeSantis’ remarks Sunday. “‘I didn’t do it’ and ‘I’m not involved in it’ are not the words of leadership," he said. “If this was such a big issue for Gov. DeSantis, he had four years to do this. He only started to focus on this when he decided he wanted to run for president and try to get to the right of Donald Trump.

“And so, I think people see this as politically manipulative," Christie added.

DeSantis’ campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Christie has launched frequent attacks on DeSantis and other candidates in the early race for the GOP nomination. He spent nearly as much time slamming his presidential rivals as he did touting his own accomplishments at a nearly two-hour town hall in South Carolina on Friday night, his first outing in the state since he launched his campaign in June.

Throughout the event, Christie made pointed jabs at several 2024 contenders, equally disavowing both Trump and President Joe Biden but also calling out DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley by name.