That’s what the Kentucky senator did on Tuesday when he was asked for his reaction to an NBC News report that showed two of his great-great-grandfathers owned slaves, according to U.S. census records.
All told, the two men, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama.
McConnell snidely used the report to declare common ground with Obama.
“You know, I find myself once again in the same position as President Obama,” McConnell said at a press conference. “We both oppose reparations, and we both are the descendants of slaveholders.”
McConnell is correct about Obama’s position on reparations: During the 2008 presidential campaign Obama did speak out against offering them to the descendants of slaves.
Instead, he said that the government should instead combat the legacy of slavery by improving schools, health care and the economy for all, according to The Associated Press.
And while many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have openly called for reparations, Obama stuck by his stance in a 2016 interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates. Of course, Obama’s stated reasons for opposing reparations have been practical and political considerations, whereas McConnell has simply argued that “no one currently alive was responsible for that.”
As for Obama’s ancestors owning slaves, that’s also correct with a little more nuance.
Back in 2007, an amateur genealogical researcher named William Reitwiesner published a history of Obama’s mother’s family suggesting the future president’s great-great-great-great grandfather George Washington Overall owned two slaves in Kentucky, The Guardian reported.
In addition, Obama’s great-great-great-great-great-grandmother also owned two slaves.
However, in 2012, Ancestry.com released a report linking the president to John Punch, America’s first documented African slave for life.
CNN reported that the connection came not from Obama’s African-born father, but from his white mother.
McConnell has used Obama to shut down any serious discussion of reparations in Congress.
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