The establishment media took shots at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over a U.S. census record supposedly detailing his ancestry’s entanglement with slavery, but the Kentucky senator responded by mentioning a shared background with former President Barack Obama.
“You know, I find myself once again in the same position as President Obama,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “We both oppose reparations and we both are the descendants of slaveholders”:
An NBC report published Monday cited a U.S. census record, which reportedly indicated that two of McConnell’s great-great-grandfathers – James McConnell and Richard Daley – owned “at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama.”
NBC News reported, “The two great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned a total of at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama — all but two of them female, according to the county ‘Slave Schedules’ in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.”
NBC used McConnell’s rejection of issuing reparations as a backdrop for the piece, adding that the discovery “came in the wake of recent hearings on reparations before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.”
The Senate Majority Leader told media on Capitol Hill last month that reparations are nonsensical because “no one currently alive was responsible for that.”
“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” he told a reporter June 18.
We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African American president. I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive is responsible for that, and I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it. First of all, it’s hard to figure out who to compensate. Waves of immigrants who’ve come to the country as well and experiences dramatic discrimination of one kind or another. So no, I don’t think reparations are a good idea:
Mitch McConnell on why he opposes reparations for slavery: "No one currently alive was responsible for that." pic.twitter.com/e3hFHQQke9
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) June 18, 2019
While the fact remains that McConnell was not complicit in his family’s purported entanglement in slavery, progressive critics argue that he and others like him are benefitting from their ancestor’s actions and should, therefore, be more sympathetic to issuing reparations.
Notable figures have rejected McConnell’s stance on reparations. Television star and radio host Steve Harvey went off on McConnell, calling him a “hillbilly” on The Steve Harvey Morning Show last month.
“‘We ain’t elect no-damn-body. I promise you, your ass did not vote for him,” Harvey said in response to McConnell’s remark about Barack Obama.
“You did nothing but try to destroy him,” he continued. “So what would you expect this hillbilly to say other than what he said?”
“You say that you don’t want to be responsible for something that happened, I think he said, 150 years ago,” he added. “Well, you weren’t there when they wrote this Constitution that you love to throw up in everybody’s face.”
This appears to be a relatively new attack against McConnell, as NBC noted that “no news articles were found in which McConnell has previously spoken of his ancestors being slave owners.”
Obama, as McConnell noted, never truly pursued reparations.
The former president told the Atlantic in 2016:
I have much more confidence in my ability, or any president or any leader’s ability, to mobilize the American people around a multiyear, multi-billion-dollar investment to help every child in poverty in this country than I am in being able to mobilize the country around providing a benefit specific to African Americans as a consequence of slavery and Jim Crow. Now, we can debate the justness of that. But I feel pretty confident in that assessment politically.
As for the other claim, McConnell cited a report rooted in 2008 findings from a genealogist, who claimed that Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather owned slaves in Kentucky.
NBC News reported:
During the 2008 election, an amateur genealogist found that on his white mother’s side, Obama had a great-great-great-grandfather named George Washington Overall who owned two male slaves in Kentucky. The genealogist, William Reitwiesner, also found that Obama’s great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Duvall, also owned a pair of slaves.
NBC’s main piece came just one day before Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath announced her bid to unseat McConnell:
I’m running to replace Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate. Everything that’s wrong with Washington had to start somewhere—it started with him. With your help, we can defeat Mitch and defend democracy. Join us: https://t.co/c4b0WAp4ji pic.twitter.com/DNLjFkHGua
— Amy McGrath (@AmyMcGrathKY) July 9, 2019