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Sen. Tim Scott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
CNN  — 

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina pushed back Thursday against Republican rival Ron DeSantis over his state’s new Black history curriculum, which says middle school students should be taught that enslaved people learned some skills they later used to their benefit.

Florida’s Board of Education approved new standards earlier this month that require instruction for middle school students to include “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” While civil rights and education advocates have slammed the rules as a disservice to students, DeSantis, one of Scott’s GOP presidential rivals, has defended his state’s curriculum.

“There is no silver lining … in slavery,” Scott said in response to a reporter’s question in Iowa on Thursday, according to a video of the exchange posted online.

“The truth is that anything you can learn, any benefits that people suggest you had during slavery, you would have had as a free person,” said Scott, the only Black Republican senator currently serving in Congress. “What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives. It was just devastating.”

“I would hope that every person in our country — and certainly running for president — would appreciate that,” he added. “People have bad days. Sometimes they regret what they say. And we should ask them again to clarify their positions.”

Scott trails DeSantis in the Republican presidential primary field, though both are well behind former President Donald Trump.

On Friday, DeSantis responded to Scott, accusing the congressman of accepting a lie “perpetrated by the left.”

“Part of the reason our country has struggled is because DC Republicans all too often accept false narratives, accept the lies that are perpetrated by the left. And to, you know, accept the lie that (Vice President) Kamala Harris has been perpetrating, even when that has been debunked, that’s not the way you do it,” DeSantis told reporters in Iowa.

DeSantis has been defending the curriculum guidance this week, describing his state’s standards Thursday as being “very clear about the injustices of slavery in vivid detail.” His allies have also pointed to similar language that appeared in the course framework for a new Advanced Placement African American Studies course piloted by the College Board, which has rejected comparisons between the two curricula.

The Florida governor has been sensitive to criticism over the state’s standards and on Thursday ripped Florida GOP Rep. Byron Donalds for suggesting changes.

Donalds, the only Black Republican in Florida’s congressional delegation, tweeted Wednesday that the new standards are “good, robust, & accurate” but added that the controversial requirement to teach about perceived benefits “needs to be adjusted.”

In response, DeSantis accused Donalds of aligning himself with Harris, who gave a fiery speech in response to the new standards last week. He called on the congressman to “stand up for your state.”

CNN’s Kaanita Iyer, Steve Contorno and Kit Maher contributed to this report.