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In 'Historically Dubious' CPAC Speech, Pence Claims 'Freedom' Ended Slavery

"Think he's arguing that capitalism ended slavery which is... an interesting perspective!" — Christopher Mathias, HuffPost

Vice President Mike Pence applauds the crowd at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). (Photo: Vice President's Twitter, @VP)

Vice President Mike Pence on Friday said that "freedom" ended slavery and defeated Hitler—a claim that was derided as historically inaccurate by critics. 

Speaking in front of a packed house at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Pence said that "freedom"—an apparent stand-in for capitalism—was the reason for the major global and American victories of the past two centuries.

"It was a freedom, not socialism, that ended slavery, won two world wars, and stands today as the beacon of hope for all the world," Pence declared. 

As people quickly pointed out on social media, that interpretation of the past was unique—and not quite accurate. 

"An interesting perspective!" said HuffPost national reporter Christopher Mathias.


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In an essay, Newsweek politics editor Jason Le Miere pointed out that Pence's quote cut both ways, even though the vice president didn't acknowledge the other side of the coin:

If it was freedom that ended slavery then presumably it was also freedom that allowed it, with a provision written into the Constitution that specifically referred to slaves and the "three-fifths compromise," whereby they were counted as less than free people. Moreover, Southern states continued to argue for the freedom to keep slavery in place as the country descended into the Civil War. 

It's also worth noting that before and during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln exchanged letters with a strong supporter overseas—a German living in London named Karl Marx.

Pence wasn't exactly telling the truth about the 20th century either, La Miere continued.

Pence’s claim about the ending of the World Wars is also historically questionable. The Soviet Union, under communist control, played a crucial—to some historians the most crucial—role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. The country also paid the heaviest price during the war as it battled Germany on the Eastern Front, losing an estimated 26 million people, including about 11 million soldiers.

Irrespective of the truthfulness of Pence's speech, it got a rousing response from the crowd at CPAC.  The vice president also talked about President Donald Trump's Space Force, anti-Semitism, and abortion. 

"Pence played the hits," wrote Rolling Stone's John Hendrickson. "Low unemployment, strong economy, tax cuts, and an extended riff about infanticide."

Watch Pence's speech:

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