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AP distorts Florida anti-CRT bill to imply DeSantis wants to 'shield whites' from 'discomfort'
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

AP distorts Florida anti-CRT bill to imply DeSantis wants to 'shield whites' from 'discomfort'

A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) slammed the Associated Press after a report misleadingly claimed an anti-critical race theory bill is intended to "shield whites from 'discomfort.'"

Leading with the headline, "Florida could shield whites from ‘discomfort’ of racist past," AP writer Brendan Farrington claimed that a bill supported by DeSantis "would prohibit public schools and private businesses from making white people feel 'discomfort' when they teach students or train employees about discrimination."

But the only excerpt of the bill quoted in the AP article makes no mention of people of any color. It states, "An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, does not bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex. An individual should not be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.”

The bill, S.B. 148, is titled "Individual Freedom" and was introduced by Republican Sen. Manny Diaz, a Hispanic lawmaker. Diaz told the AP that his bill is intended to make sure that no group of people is singled out on the basis of their skin color and blamed for the sins of the past.

“No individual is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, solely by the virtue of his or her race or sex,” Diaz said. “No race is inherently superior to another race.”

Diaz was referring to tenets of critical race theory, a worldview that claims most laws and systems in America were historically rooted in the racist oppression of black people and other marginalized groups. Formulated by legal scholars in the 1970s as a response to perceptions that the civil rights movement did not sufficiently advance equality, CRT holds that racism is systemic in America's institutions and that white people who support those institutions are complicit in perpetuating the oppression of blacks and other minorities.

Conservatives reject this worldview, arguing that it substitutes race conflict for traditional Marxist class conflict to define white people as an oppressor class and everyone else as a victim class to justify programs for wealth redistribution. Republican politicians and conservative activists have proposed laws to ban critical race theory concepts from being taught in schools, while preserving the teaching of U.S. history.

Diaz's bill prohibits the teaching of collective guilt for members of any race. While that appears to be a response to critical race theory's claims about white people perpetuating racism, the text of the bill protects all people from being told they are collectively guilty of sins because of the color of their skin. It is not a bill to protect "white people" from feeling discomfort by talking about racism or the historic discrimination against non-whites in America.

In fact, the bill explicitly requires that schools teach "the history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition, and the contributions of African Americans to society.”

But left-wing pundits seized on the AP report to attack Florida Republicans. MSNBC host Joy Reid falsely claimed Florida was "literally legislating white people’s psychic comfort."

"To reiterate: it’s about to be ILLEGAL IN FLORIDA TO MAKE WHITE PEOPLE SAD. Fix it Jesus!" she lied.

Responding to the AP's distortion of the Florida bill, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw blasted the report, calling the outlet "American Pravda" and accusing the AP of "implying that [DeSantis] is a white supremacist."

She also claimed that Farrington lied by writing that DeSantis' office did not respond to a request for comment after Democratic state lawmaker Sen. Shevrin Jones, who is black, told the AP DeSantis has adopted "racist rhetoric on critical race theory" and claimed the bill was a solution to a "problem that doesn't exist." Jones also said the governor's policies are racist.

DeSantis communications director Taryn Fenske shared a screenshot of Farrington's request for comment, in which the reporter told the governor's office that he asked Jones if Jones thinks DeSantis "is racist" and then asked for a comment. The email had no greeting, no deadline to respond, and didn't even include a professional signature.

Fenske's response was, "I just want to clarify — that you, without any context, asked a sitting State Senator if the Governor of Florida is a racist, while on the clock, being paid by the Associated Press?"

Her response was not quoted in Farrington's article.

The article was later updated to say, "The governor’s spokeswoman reiterated comments DeSantis made at a news conference last month in which he referred to the late civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr."

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