A Republican congressman from Iowa has accused has accused President Obama of publishing “slavery reparations” through Congress.
“Figure this out, Madame Speaker: We have a very, very urban Senator, Barack Obama, who has decided he’s going to run for president, and what does he do?” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked on the House floor Monday night. “He introduces legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim.”
As senator, Obama pushed for a settlement with black farmers and Native Americans who were discriminated against.
King argued that the claims of African-American farmers and American Indians who were discriminated against in the 1980s and 1990s by the Department of Agriculture are fraudulent. However, the Senate last week approved a $1.2 billion settlement for the Pigford II and Cobell claims. A federal judge approved the settlement in February after an investigation by the FBI.
Still, King ignored the fact that because of USDA denied the loans to the claimants in a discriminatory fashion — the settlement’s basis — most of the black farmers lost their livelihoods.
“We’ve got to stand up at some point and say, ‘We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress,'” he said. “That war’s been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there’s no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one’s filing that claim.”
A USDA spokesperson replied to King’s accusations, noting that they are “nothing more than an attempt to derail an effort to provide long-overdue compensation to thousands of farmers who were discriminated against over several decades.”
“Current census numbers on black farmers are not the proper guide for the number of claimants, and certainly no basis for allegations of fraud,” the spokesperson said. “Out of the 15,000 claims processed under Pigford I, the FBI determined that only 3 claims were fraudulent, and this Administration is committed to ensuring that the new claims process has integrity and provides justice to those who have suffered discrimination.”
The Pigford settlement has been mired in controversy which crested earlier this year with the firing of USDA appointee and Pigford claimant Shirley Sherrod, due to a right-wing blogger’s doctored video of her at a March 2010 NAACP event.
King’s media profile rose last week for his request that WikiLeaks be deemed a “foreign terrorist organization.”