A New Hampshire lawmaker came under fire last week for claiming that American slavery was based on economics, not racism.
Republican state Rep. Werner Horn stated his case in a now-deleted Facebook post, then reaffirmed his position in multiple interviews with media outlets.
Horn initially drew attention for his comments in a Facebook post by former state House member Dan Hynes, who posed the question: "If Trump is the most racist president in American history, what does that say about all of the other presidents who owned slaves?"
Horn responded, “Wait, owning slaves doesn’t make you racist..."
"I guess not," Hynes answered Tuesday. "Which is surprising since everything else makes someone a racist."
Horn then added, “It shouldn’t be surprising since owning slaves wasn’t a decision predicated on race but on economics. It’s a business decision.”
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Hynes took a different position on Thursday via Facebook, saying that "slavery in the U.S. was in fact racist."
But, Horn, a three-term lawmaker, further denied racism's role in interviews with the Huffington Post and the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Horn told the Union Leader that people have been enslaving others throughout history, calling the American institution of slavery an "economic reality."
“Slavery later on in the American South was not about the color of the skin of the slaves but their value as workers on the plantations,” Horn told the newspaper. "The U.S. had abolitionists since the start, people who felt slavery wasn’t moral but they weren’t enslaving black people because they were black. They were bringing in these folks because they were available.”
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Millions of Africans were kidnapped, then shipped to the U.S. where slave owners forced them to do physical labor and brutally punished those who rebelled. Blacks still face discrimination related to the color of their skin, including disproportionate incarceration rates and overdiscipline in schools.
Ray Buckley, the state's Democratic Party chairman, criticized Horn's comments as well as the lack of condemnation from Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.
“Sununu’s silence on Trump’s racism has sanctioned this kind of behavior from his Republican Party and has permitted comments like these with impunity," Buckley said in a statement to the Union Leader. "It’s disgusting."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New Hampshire lawmaker: 'Owning slaves doesn't make you racist'