NEW YORK (AP) – Beto O’Rourke said Wednesday that if he is elected president, he would support a House bill to create a commission to study reparations to African Americans over slavery.
Speaking at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network convention in New York, the Democratic presidential candidate said he would back a bill sponsored by fellow Texan Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. The comments are O’Rourke’s most detailed to date on the question of reparations for black Americans as a means of addressing centuries of slavery and legal discrimination.
Recounting a conversation with Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, O’Rourke said that “foundational to reparations is the word repair, foundational to repair is the truth.”
According to Jackson Lee, the bill would “make recommendations concerning any form of apology and compensation to begin the long delayed process of atonement for slavery.”
Most 2020 candidates have been cautious on the topic, with some ruling out direct compensation to African Americans for the legacy of slavery. O’Rourke did not say Wednesday whether he backed direct payments.
He is not the only Democratic candidate running for president who supports the legislation, which was first introduced in 1989 by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker are among Democrats who also support the legislation.
Following his speech, O’Rourke was asked about the scrutiny former Vice President Joe Biden is facing over his past behavior with women. Two women have said that Biden touched them inappropriately in the past.
“I think we need to listen to those who are raising their stories who have the courage to come forward,” O’Rourke told reporters.”