Twitter showed no mercy to a congressman who apparently forgot this nation’s history of slavery. Vermont’s Democratic Rep. Peter Welch offered an apology on Tuesday to quiet the uproar he created.
Welch set off the firestorm earlier that day when he tweeted that “never in the history of this country has it been legal to make people work for free but that’s what’s happening to federal employees.”
That was in reference to his legislative bill that would make it illegal to force federal workers to work without pay during any current or future government shutdowns. He unveiled the measure Tuesday at a press conference in Vermont.
After getting roughed up on Twitter for forgetting slavery, Welch went back to Twitter to correct himself.
“Sincere apologies. Nothing worse in the history of our country than the brutal inhumanity of the horrible, relentless, and savage infliction of involuntary servitude-slavery- on millions of people whose freedom was denied. Nothing,” he wrote.
That Twitter flub came against the backdrop of an estimated 800,000 federal government employees who have been caught in the middle of a budget stalemate in Washington between Donald Trump and Democrats over appropriating billions of dollars to build the president’s proposed wall along the border with Mexico.
Roughly 380,000 federal workers have been furloughed and 420,000 are working without pay, according to CNBC.
There was no apparent end to the government shutdown in sight as of Wednesday morning. If the partial government shutdown continues to Friday, scores of federal workers will have missed a second paycheck. The median worker has only enough cash or other liquid assets to cover just eight days of their average household spending, according to a study conducted by University of Michigan economist Michael Gelman based on the 2013 government shutdown.
Indeed, many government employees who live from paycheck-to-paycheck said they didn’t know how they would pay their rent or mortgage and how they would put food on the table.
While Welsh may not have intended to dismiss slavery, his tweet shows how disconnected even many liberal white politicians are to some aspects of American history that negatively impacted Black people.
Many on Twitter wondered how Welch, who has served in Congress for seven terms, failed to account for the nation’s acceptance of slavery until the 13th Amendment was formally ratified and outlawed slavery in 1865.
Here’s just a few of the many reactions folks had on Twitter.