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White House suggests DeSantis education reform may contribute to racial violence: ‘Don’t think it’s a stretch’


White House officials suggested Monday that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education bills may contribute to the type of racial violence seen in Jacksonville this week.

White House Director of the Office of Public Engagement Stephen Benjamin made the statement during a press briefing on Monday. Benjamin addressed the recent “racially motivated” shooting in Jacksonville, and a reporter pressed him about whether Florida’s reforms on the teaching of African American history contributed to the violence.

“Does the White House see any connection with the changes that the Florida governor has made in teaching about African American history to the kind of violence that we saw in Jacksonville?” the reporter asked.

Benjamin responded by highlighting President Biden’s recent effort to set up a new national monument honoring Emmett Till and his mother, adding that acknowledging America’s painful history is “edifying.”

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Stephen Benjamin responds to White House press pool

White House Director of Public Engagement Stephen Benjamin responded to a question attempting to tie the Jacksonville shooting to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ changes made to African American history curriculum. (White House)

“Establishing these monuments in Mississippi and Illinois is meant to make sure that people understand that we cannot rewrite American history, and that we have to tell the good with the bad,” Benjamin said.

“So I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that trying to rewrite American history is not only wrong, but also encourages our children and those among us not to lean in to the beautiful and also painful past of what our history looks like.”

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DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.

Ron DeSantis

Detractors say Florida’s curriculum shies away from the darker parts of American history when it comes to African Americans. (Fox News)

The exchange comes one day after a gunman in Jacksonville, Florida, killed two men and one woman in what authorities called a “racially motivated” shooting on Sunday.

The suggested connection is the latest White House criticism of the Florida Department of Education’s updated standards for teaching African American studies. The detractors claim the curriculum shies away from the darker parts of American history when it comes to African Americans.

MaryLynn Magar, who was appointed to the State Board of Education by DeSantis in March, says there is nothing missing from the standards.

“Everything is there,” Magar told The Tallahassee Democrat. “The darkest parts of our history are addressed, and I’m very proud of the task force. I can confidently say that the DOE and the task force believe that African American history is American history, and that’s represented in those standards.” 

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President Joe Biden

President Biden’s administration has been heavily critical of DeSantis’ education reforms in Florida. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

DeSantis himself has defended the changes following criticism from Vice President Kamala Harris in late July. The governor went so far as to challenge the vice president to a debate.

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“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 in a 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.”

Fox News Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.



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