Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush waits for his introduction at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, March 7, 2015.
Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

Jeb Bush calls Black Lives Matter a ‘slogan’

Updated

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement and its eponymous chant as a political “slogan” Thursday, and said potential Democratic rival and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley should not have apologized for saying “white lives matter” during a protest last weekend at Netroots Nation.

“If he believes that white lives matter, which I hope he does, then he shouldn’t apologize to a group that seems to disagree with it,” the Republican presidential candidate told reporters Thursday at a town hall in New Hampshire.

The Black Lives Matter movement, sparked largely in response to recent killings of unarmed African-Americans by white police officers, shook up the presidential election this week following a surprise protest at the annual Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix, Arizona. On Saturday, the progressive gathering was interrupted when black activists took the stage during a presidential candidate forum, forcing O’Malley and fellow White House hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont into uncomfortable territory as they struggled to respond to questions on race relations and police violence.

O’Malley came under fire for adding “white lives matter, all lives matter” to the protesters’ calls – a  statement he has since apologized for.

But Bush said Thursday that O’Malley had nothing to be sorry about.

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“I mean, we’re so uptight and so politically correct now that we apologize for saying ‘lives matter?’” Bush said. “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. And should he have apologized? No.”

Earlier in the day, Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who skipped this year’s Netroots and was, therefore, spared from the ambush – attempted to soar where her rivals had floundered on the issue and spoke at length about racial justice. Addressing a packed church in South Carolina, where an apparent hate crime recently left nine African-American parishioners dead, Clinton said: “It is essential that we all stand up and say loudly and clearly, ‘Yes, black lives matter.’”

UP, 7/19/15, 8:32 AM ET

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Black Lives Matter and Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush calls Black Lives Matter a 'slogan'

Updated