Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell compared himself to former President Barack Obama on Tuesday, saying that both of them had descended from slave owners. According to Yahoo News, McConnell was asked by reporters about his stance on reparations for African Americans, and he justified his opposition by citing his family history.
Reporters at a press conference after a closed-door luncheon with Senate Republicans asked McConnell if he knew that he was the descendant of two slave owners in Alabama before the civil war, and if that fact would make him reconsider his stance.
“You know, I find myself in the same position as President Obama,” he said.
“We both oppose reparations, and we both are the descendants of slave owners.”
The politician’s great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, both owned slaves in Alabama in the mid-1800s. Of the 14 people that the two owned, two of them were male and the rest were female, according to censuses from the time.
McConnell has been vocally against the idea of reparations. He says that it would be too difficult to determine who should get money and he feels that people today aren’t responsible for the behavior of slave owners in the past.
“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, when none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea,” he said.
“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.”
When reporters told Mitch McConnell that his great-great-grandfathers were slave owners, he said that was one thing he had in common with former President Barack Obama.
"We both are the descendants of slave owners,” he saidhttps://t.co/Ur8liTkvIw
— POLITICO (@politico) July 9, 2019
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties have been holding hearings on the idea of reparations. Proponents of the idea say that white slave-holders in the past got a major leg-up in the economy by using unpaid labor and that many of those people may continue to benefit from that economic advantage.
Obama, on the other hand, is descended from George Washington Overall, a man who owned two slaves in Kentucky. Obama’s great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Duvall, also owned two slaves, according to The Guardian. Obama also boasts a relative who fought for the Union in the civil war. His great-great-great-grandfather, Christopher Columbus Clark, fought with the Union army.
“While a relative owned slaves, another fought for the Union,” Obama once pointed out.
The news came to light by an amateur geologist named William Reitwiesner as Obama was running for president against Hillary Clinton.
McConnell was informed about his slave-owning ancestors earlier this week after NBC News uncovered his lineage.