Jeb Bush defends his ‘free stuff’ comment

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush doubled down on his controversial comments last week that Democrats appeal to African-Americans by offering “free stuff,” saying that his comments were taken out of context.

In a pre-taped interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Bush mostly reiterated what he’d said earlier, fueling longstanding, unfounded and stereotypical notions of freeloading black voters beholden to Democrats.

“We need to make our case to African-American voters and to all voters that an aspiration message fixing a few complex things will allow people to rise up,” Bush said. “That’s what people want. They don’t want free stuff. That was my point. They left argues all the time taking things out of context.”

During a campaign even in South Carolina on Thursday a white man asked Bush how he planned greater outreach to the black community.

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“Our message is one of hope and aspiration. It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff,” Bush responded. “Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success.”

The derisive assertion that black voters are looking for handouts that the Democratic Party is leaping to offer in exchange for support has been a long-running meme among Republicans. Most recently, in 2012, then Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who was roundly lambasted for saying at an NAACP event that he would rebuff black voters interested in “more free stuff.”

“I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy – more free stuff,” Romney said then. “But don’t forget nothing is really free.”

Allie Brandenburger, a Bush spokesperson, said in a statement that Bush has promoted policies that appeal to a wide range of folks, including African-Americans.

“Jeb is running a campaign that will not cede any issue, voter or demographic group because he has a vision for the future that can unite Americans behind restoring people’s ability to rise up and achieve their dreams,” Brandenburger said in the statement.

In an interview with CNBC on Friday Bush again spoke on race, saying that Americans are not “inherently racist.” Instead he called many Americans “deeply disaffected right now.”

“I don’t think people are inherently racist in this country,” he said. “In fact, I think that we have a pretty noble tradition of the opposite. But people are deeply disaffected right now. So rather than prey on their angst and fears, I’m taking a risk of trying to appeal to their hopes and dreams. Give them a sense that leadership matters, and that if we fix these things, things are going to get a lot better in this country.”

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush defends his 'free stuff' comment