Jeb Bush Says No Need to Apologize for 'All Lives Matter'

He was asked if Martin O'Malley should apologize for saying it.

ByABC News
July 24, 2015, 9:38 AM
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush greets local residents during a backyard meet and greet, June 17, 2015, in Washington, Iowa.
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush greets local residents during a backyard meet and greet, June 17, 2015, in Washington, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

— -- As questions swirl over what happened to 28-year-old Sandra Bland, who was found dead in her cell in a Texas jail, candidates in the 2016 presidential race are being hammered on their views surrounding the call for justice and the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

It is a movement that largely began last year as part of the protests over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Republican candidate and former Florida governor Jeb Bush was asked Thursday in New Hampshire if he thought that Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley should apologize for saying that "all lives matter" during progressive gathering, Netroots Nation.

Bush responded by asking, "We're so uptight and so politically correct now that we apologize for saying 'lives matter?"

He added, "Life is precious. It's a gift from God. I frankly think that it's one of the most important values that we have. I know in the political context it's a slogan, I guess. Should he have apologized? No. If he believes that white lives matter, which I hope he does, then he shouldn't have apologized to a group that seemed to disagree with it."

The Liberal super pac, American Bridge, quickly uploaded the video.

The 'Black Lives Matter' movement, largely led by young grassroots organizers who profess a non-partisan view, has proved to be a stumbling block for candidates on both sides. Both O'Malley and his Democratic rival Bernie Sanders were criticized for their responses to activists' demonstrations, declining to advocate specifically for Black Lives Matter, choosing the more inclusive call of "All Lives Matter."

It is a slogan viewed by activists as deeply out of touch and a view that overlooks the crux of their call to social equality and an end to the systematic prejudice they say African-Americans face in the eyes of the justice system.

Both quickly scrambled to amend his remarks; O'Malley appearing on a black talk show to say he made a mistake, Sanders forcefully condemning Bland's arrest, calling it "painful and dreadful".

On Thursday, Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton tried to overcome her own similar stumbles while speaking to a black church in South Carolina, twice invoking the "Black Lives Matter" slogan and calling Bland's death "heartbreaking".

"And that’s why I think it is essential that we all stand up and say loudly and clearly, ‘Yes, black lives matter.’ And we all have a responsibility to face these hard truths of race and justice honestly and directly,” Clinton said to cheers during a campaign stop at the Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia, South Carolina.

Clinton was criticized last month for saying “all lives matter” at an event at a historic black church close to Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters last year widely used the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

Bush has said in the past that he will win this campaign by going to places "that haven't seen a Republican in a very long time", declaring to be able to rally the support of Latinos and African-Americans, groups that have traditionally eluded the GOP.

ABC News' Shushannah Walshe contributed to this report.