Gov. Lamont reacts to ’40 acres and a mule’ remark he made during a news conference

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont is in the hot seat after a racially insensitive remark he made last Thursday during an update on the pandemic.

It flew under the radar until viewers told News 8 is was offensive to the Black community.

During the July 9 briefing said:

“One more time I’ll tell you about the PPP loans, the Paycheck Protection Program. It’s a little like the 40 acres and a mule. It’s really a big giveaway that the federal government has done for good purpose I would say.”

The reference “40 acres and a mule” is a broken promise from the government during the Civil War era.

The promise — to give land and livestock to freed slaves for their suffering — never happened.

“I was talking about opportunity,” Lamont explained. “I was saying, ‘in the middle of this tragedy, the PPP loans maybe give people an opportunity to keep their business going in a really tough time.’ There are a couple of historical analogies you can draw, but it’s about opportunity. That’s what I was trying to say. “

State Representative Bobby Gibson, a member of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said he believes the governor may not have been aware of what he was saying and it’s historic reference.

“Yeah, on the surface it is offensive, but if you really think about the changes this state and country are going through, this is an opportunity,” he said.

Gibson said he wants to sit with the governor and educate him. He plans to call Lamont with his concerns.

“The governor should take the lead. Think about how powerful it would be for the governor to learn something…and to then change the way he thinks.”

“We reached out to somebody in the Black and Puerto Rican caucus and they said they thought it was an opportunity to sit down and talk and educate you and others on phrases like that that seem insensitive to those in the Black community,” News 8 Political Correspondent Jodi Latina informed the governor.

Lamont said he will sit down with them, but he did not come out and formally apologize for the comment.

“I’m always happy to talk to people, but I was talking about opportunity; that was the message.”

News 8 reached out to the local NAACP for comment. President Scott X. Esdaile said, “I put a call into the governor’s office. I’m requesting that he and I have a conversation to discuss this matter ASAP.”

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