McDonnell’s Mea Culpa: Virginia’s GOP Governor Says Slavery Omission Was ‘Mistake’

Apr 7, 2010 6:35pm

ABC News' Teddy Davis reports: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) issued a mea culpa on Wednesday evening, telling his fellow citizens that it was a "mistake" and "major omission" not to discuss slavery in his proclamation designating April as "Confederate History Month." “The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission," said McDonnell in a statement released by his office. "The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed.” McDonnell's proclamation, which was initially touted as a way to promote tourism in Virginia, is being amended to include the following language: "WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history . . ." When McDonnell's proclamation was posted to his Web site last week, it drew little notice. But controversy erupted on Wednesday after The Washington Post reported that McDonnell had downplayed the slavery omission by telling reporters that he did not consider slavery to be one of the most significant aspects of the Civil War. "There were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states," McDonnell told reporters on a Tuesday conference call. "Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones that I thought were most significant for Virginia." McDonnell's decision to declare that April will be Confederate History Month in the Commonwealth of Virginia reversed two previous Democratic governors who had refused to issue the proclamation honoring the soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War. The proclamation was issued just before the 150th anniversary of April 17, 1861, the day Virginia seceded from the union. Read the full proclamation HERE.  The return of Confederate History Month, which started under former Republican Gov. George Allen and was ended by former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, was sharply criticized by Virginia's Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP. It also came under criticism from former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder (D) who told the Washington Post that it was "mind-boggling to say the least." Wilder, a Democrat who was the first African American elected governor of a U.S. State, had previously been supportive of McDonnell and boosted the Republican's 2009 election by he not endorsing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds. Since being elected governor of Virginia last year, McDonnell has been seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. Earlier this year, he was chosen by GOP congressional leaders to deliver the official Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union.
McDonnell was also recently touted on "The View" by Mitt Romney as someone who "could be a strong contender" for president. Given that Romney himself is gearing up to run for president in 2012, Romney's comment fueled speculation about whether McDonnell could end up on Romney's short list for a running mate if the former Massachusetts governor were to win the GOP's presidential nomination. Before issuing his mea culpa, McDonnell had come under criticism from Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who served as governor of Virginia before McDonnell was elected. McDonnell was also criticized by the the liberal People for the American Way group and Think Progress, the blog of the Center for American Progress. The Confederate History proclamation issued by McDonnell had also become the subject of an unscientific on-line ballot on ABCNews.com.

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