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Al Sharpton and Rep. Byron Donalds get into heated debate about Jim Crow: ‘Get it through your skull’

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Rev. Al Sharpton engaged in a heated back and forth with Rep. Byron Donalds on Saturday after the MSNBC host suggested the Florida Republican had put a “positive spin” on the Jim Crow era.

Sharpton hammered Donalds – who is reportedly on former President Trump’s shortlist for his 2024 running mate – for what he said last week regarding the quality of life for Black families during Jim Crow-era racial segregation.

“During Jim Crow, the Black family was together,” Donalds said at a GOP event in Philadelphia. “During Jim Crow, more Black people were not just conservative – Black people have always been conservative-minded – but more Black people voted conservatively.”

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Al Sharpton and Byron Donalds split

MSNBC host Al Sharpton got into a fiery back and forth with Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., about Black Americans during the Jim Crow era.  (MSNBC/Screenshot)

During Saturday’s “PoliticsNation,” Donalds said Democrats had lied and mischaracterized his comments. He denied that he had suggested the Jim Crow era was “better” for Black Americans, saying he noted it was simply an “empirical fact” that Black marriage rates were better at the time.

Sharpton claimed that Donalds had “inferred” families, especially Black families, were better off during the 1950s and 60s.

“I never said that,” Donalds replied.

Sharpton urged Donalds to apologize and said he may have unintentionally “sanitized” a time when Black Americans could not vote.

The two spoke over one another as Sharpton took issue with why Donalds had mentioned Jim Crow rather than calling it the 1950s.

Sharpton later noted that Donalds had moved from New York to Florida for politics and is in an interracial marriage before asking how he could “live with himself” for “acting like Jim Crow was a good era or better era for Blacks.”

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Byron Donalds speaks to reporters

U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) speaks to reporters as he leaves a House Republican candidates forum on October 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“OK, that’s real cute. That’s real cute. I did not say that, and I’m not going to sit here and have you insinuate that against me because right now you’re lying about what I said,” Donalds replied.

Donalds then asked when Sharpton was “going to get it through [his skull]” that he did not suggest Jim Crow was a good or better time.

“Maybe it’s because our skull has ears and we heard what you said,” Sharpton fired back.

Sharpton and Donalds continued to talk over one another before pivoting to a different topic.

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Donalds previously defended his comments on social media. He argued that Democrats are “trying to say I said Black people were doing better under Jim Crow. I never said that. They are lying.”

“What I said was you had more Black families under Jim Crow, and it was the Democrat policies under [the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare], under the welfare state, that did help to destroy the Black family,” Donalds said. “I also said you’re seeing a reinvigoration of Black families today in America, and that is a good thing.”

Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

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