Bachmann Does Damage Control over Slavery Quote in 'Marriage Vow'

The pledge deletes insinuation that Black children were better off during slavery

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Michele Bachmann signing of "The Marriage Vow" pledge, promoted by a conservative Christian values group The Family Leader, was met with outrage. The main purpose of the pledge was to secure opposition to gay marriage, but the document was packed with little details that managed to offend an impressive range of people, considering the relatively short length of the document. The document encouraged a baby boom and called homosexuality a choice, but the most head-scratching piece was its insinuation that African American babies may have somehow been better off under slavery. This was the passage:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household* than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

Early Saturday, Bachmann's spokeswoman Alice Stewart said that the she had only endorsed the 14-point “candidate vow,” which did not include the slavery passage. Politico reports that Stewart said that "in no uncertain terms, Congresswoman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible." She added Bachmann "stands behind the candidate vow - which makes absolutely no reference to slavery."

Not everyone bought this backpedal. The Washington Post expressed its disbelief that Bachmann just happened to ignore / miss the reference:

However, the entire document was only four pages, including two pages of footnotes, and the slavery section was the first bullet point within the preamble.

Then on Saturday evening, the Post reports that the Bachmann campaign forwarded a note from The Family Leader to reporters, apologizing for the reference and removing the language. A spokesperson for the group wrote:

After careful deliberation and wise insight and input from valued colleagues we deeply respect, we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued, and such misconstruction can detract from the core message of the Marriage Vow: that ALL of us must work to strengthen and support families and marriages between one woman and one man. We sincerely apologize for any negative feelings this has caused, and have removed the language from the vow.

Politico reports that in a phone interview, Julie Summa, the spokesperson for The Family Leader, supported Bachmann's story that she never signed off on the slavery reference, saying, "That was a preamble that the Family Leader came up with. I believe that they weren't signing off on the preamble portion, just on the campaign vow portion." Summa said that she was "not at liberty to say" whether they'd heard from any of the campaigns to complain about the language, only that the group had heard from was an African-American pastor who opposed the language.

She also added, intriguingly, that she thought the candidates mostly heard about the vow through the press, but that she had gotten a direct request for it from one presidential hopeful -- not Bachmann or Rick Santorum (who also signed it), but a third person who hasn't signed it yet.
So is anyone buying that the slavery reference was just a huge misunderstanding with some careless signatures? Fox News writes that "It's not clear whether Bachmann was aware of the slavery passage on the first page." And on CNN this morning, Santorum indicated that he had in fact read the document carefully. Host Candy Crowley did not ask him about the slavery language, but she did ask about the pledge of "personal fidelity to your own spouse,” which Santorum admitted to being "taken aback by" when he first read it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.