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No, Jeb Bush did not say unwed mothers should be publicly shamed

No, Jeb Bush did not say unwed mothers should be publicly shamed

Apparently, reading is hard

I must’ve missed the “everyone make stuff up” memo circulating through media channels this week. Thankfully, I’m just a blogger.

Tuesday, the Huffington Post published a post with the headline, Jeb Bush In 1995: Unwed Mothers Should Be Publicly Shamed. There’s just one problem though — that’s not what Jeb Bush said. Not in 1995 or otherwise.

The post focuses on a book Bush wrote called Profiles in Character. The book was published in 1995. Gawker, Wonkette, Raw Story and others then reblogged using the same, incorrect headline.

No, Jeb Bush did not say unwed mothers should be publicly shamed

Ignoring what Bush’s book said, Laura Bassett wrote at the Huffington Post:

Public shaming would be an effective way to regulate the “irresponsible behavior” of unwed mothers, misbehaving teenagers and welfare recipients, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) argued in his 1995 book Profiles in Character.

In a chapter called “The Restoration of Shame,” the likely 2016 presidential candidate made the case that restoring the art of public humiliation could help prevent pregnancies “out of wedlock.”

Here’s how the passage in question actually reads:

One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame. Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior. There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out of wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but nowhere in this passage do I read “unwed mothers should be publicly shamed.” Sure, Bush talked about shame, about how the decay of the family unit was no longer shameful (and he was right), discussed that there once was a time when communities collectively “frowned on” promiscuous behavior and that it served as an effective deterrent. But not once did he say nor did he imply that unwed mothers should be scorned, shamed, and cast from polite society as HuffPo suggests.

Explaining Bush’s advocacy for punishment that embarrassed offenders for petty crimes, Bassett wrote:

Bush’s ideas about public shaming extended beyond unwed parents. He said American schools and the welfare system could use a healthy dose of shame as well. “For many, it is more shameful to work than to take public assistance — that is how backward shame has become!” he wrote, adding that the juvenile criminal justice system also “seems to be lacking in humiliation.”

In the context of present-day society we need to make kids feel shame before their friends rather than their family. The Miami Herald columnist Robert Steinback has a good idea. He suggests dressing these juveniles in frilly pink jumpsuits and making them sweep the streets of their own neighborhoods! Would these kids be so cavalier then?

I’m really not seeing the problem here.

HuffPo goes on to compare this example of shame with the horrific suicide of a thirteen-year old girl:

It’s worth pointing out that the kind of public shaming Bush described has come under fire recently in response to the growing trend of parents humiliating their children on social media to punish them. A 13-year-old girl committed suicide last month after her father posted a video of himself cutting off her long hair on YouTube because she had disobeyed him.

No, it’s not worth noting. Not in the least bit. How in the world is the tragic suicide of a young girl remotely related to silly, but effective punishments for juvenile offenders?

Context matters though, and HuffPo and sites of the same caliber routinely advocate on behalf of a shame-free world — where actions that contribute to the rapid corrosion of the family unit ought be welcomed with open arms. Speak out against that, or stand firmly for the integrity of family… You’ve just placed a target on your back.

Regardless of what you think of Governor Bush as a Republican presidential candidate, this type of reporting is the only shameful part of the equation.

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The HuffPo piece also included a portion addressing a controversial Florida law, known as the “Scarlet Letter” law.

As governor of Florida in 2001, Bush had the opportunity to test his theory on public shaming. He declined to veto a very controversial bill that required single mothers who did not know the identity of the father to publish their sexual histories in a newspaper before they could legally put their babies up for adoption. He later signed a repeal of the so-called “Scarlet Letter” law in 2003 after it was successfully challenged in court.

We reached out to Jeb Bush’s campaign who provided the following context:

The bill passed the House of Representatives 108-8 with noted liberals like Lois Frankel supporting it.

It passed the State Senate by a vote of 30-8.

Governor Bush had received assurances from the bill’s sponsor, Democrat Senator Skip Campbell, that the disclosure requirement would be fixed. He welched on that commitment.

When the repeal bill reached GJB’s desk in 2003, he signed it.


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Henry Hawkins | June 9, 2015 at 8:18 pm

If he had said unwed mothers should be publicly shamed, it would constitute reason # 347 of why I’ll never vote for Jeb Bush. Whew. List remains at 346.

I haven’t read the paper or watched TV in about 6 years now. Get all my news from various blog sources such as LI, forums, and so on.

The media isn’t really any different from those tacky tabloid magazines you see at the grocery store talking about “bat boy” and “Elvis is alive !” and so on.

Pro tip for Collectivist writers of bullshit…

If it seems too crazy for YOU to say, it likely was not said by anybody you hate. But, HEY, research…!!!

Saying it anyway just makes you look stooooooooopid(er).

My theory is that the MSM tried to attack Scott Walker a few months back and discovered that every attack just made him more popular with the GOP.

Now they think they’re being clever — if they ‘attack’ Jeb and Rubio with these ludicrous things, they’ll use their reverse psychology to make us like Jeb and Rubio, hurting Walker’s relative standing. (Or Cruz’s, or whoever it is they really hate.)

Remember: the last time we let the NYT tell us who the most electable candidate was, we got John McCain. Please, please, please don’t let that happen again.

    Estragon in reply to clintack. | June 9, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    You give them entirely too much credit.

    In fact, all they are doing is printing the attack of the week passed to them by the Soros-funded, Brock-run, pro-Hillary propaganda group American Bridge. It’s just that simple. Give it time, AB will find some non-scandal to smear your favorite candidate, too. It’s what they do, it’s who they are. Clintons don’t take prisoners unless they are young, attractive, and female.

Let ’em drown. He’s unelectable anyway.

The Left doesn’t see the world in terms of Truth and Lies, those are mere subjective and relative terms to them. Instead, they are governed only by the division of Politically Useful and Not Politically Useful. The accuracy of the charge, if any, is just icing on the cake.

In evidence, see how quickly the lefty sites picked up and linked the story. Think any of them checked for themselves? Of course not, it hurts a Republican, so it’s Useful, so it’s Good.

    Sammy Finkelman in reply to Estragon. | June 9, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    Very good point.

    Jeb Bush wasn’t proposing anything be done to unwed mothers, but rather, regretting that things had changed, and trying to explain why there was so much more of it..

Sammy Finkelman | June 9, 2015 at 11:30 pm

In a chapter called “The Restoration of Shame,” the likely 2016 presidential candidate made the case that restoring the art of public humiliation could help prevent pregnancies “out of wedlock.”

He didn’t say anything about organized public humiliation for out of wedlock births, but rather for crimes.

Whether Bush wanted to bring back the stigma for unwed motherhood, whether he even conceived it possible, depends upon the paragraohs following what you quoted.

A few further comments: The proposal shaming for crime he cited favorably, would not be for the crime at all. He’s probably also long ago dropped this idea. And I do thing you could relate it to suicide. A few people might possibly react that way to extreme shaming – who could argue to the contrary?

Bush is running like he’s walking on eggshells. That’s how all these GOP hacks operate. Losers, all of them. Wastes of time, wastes of votes, and pathetic to have any hopes for, and a waste to fret over.

Want to win? Then think Walker/Cruz/Paul.

Gremlin1974 | June 10, 2015 at 2:22 am

Hey, your forgetting that liberal bigots have the power to read what you really mean behind your words….Kind of like Mrs. Cleo!

It does appear HuffPo misquoted Jeb Bush in this instance. Notwithstanding, your analysis demonstrates a certain degree of culpability in the “guilt by omission” category.

Specifically, you neglected to mention that the correct passage is contained in the chapter titled, “The Restoration of Shame,” and that this association could certainly lead many readers to believe shaming was part of Bush’s message.

from the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics:

• Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information.
• Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.

Thus, you and HuffPo distorted context in this situation.

Maybe you forgot the part of the story where A Florida law required single moms to publish ads naming their sexual partners (in order to adopt) if they didnt know who father was.

Yea, failed to mention that Bush didn’t Veto that BS until it was taken to court.

    KTB in reply to KTB. | June 10, 2015 at 10:56 am

    *in order to put their child up for adoption

    Milhouse in reply to KTB. | June 10, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Why was it BS? How else could the father be identified, and come forward to challenge the adoption?

    And what exactly is your problem with this anyway? Do you think that single women who get pregnant shouldn’t be ashamed of it? Do you really think there’s nothing immoral about what they did, and they shouldn’t be ashamed than everyone now knows about it?

      KTB in reply to Milhouse. | June 10, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      Why was it BS? How else could the father be identified, and come forward to challenge the adoption?

      Because it is a blantant invasion of privacy? How is this even a real question? Did you complete a high-school level US Government clasS?

      And what exactly is your problem with this anyway? Do you think that single women who get pregnant shouldn’t be ashamed of it?

      I think that people have the right do whatever they want with their body and their decisions to have or not have children out of wed lock is NONE of your business nor the governments.

      Do you really think there’s nothing immoral about what they did, and they shouldn’t be ashamed than everyone now knows about it?

      I think it is more immoral that you think you have the right to judge someone and agree with publicly shaming people. I am going to guess you are a Bible beater so here you go: “Don’t speak destructive things about others. Are you qualified to perfectly judge someone else?” (James 4:11-12).

        Milhouse in reply to KTB. | June 10, 2015 at 1:48 pm

        The father, whoever he is, has the right to challenge the adoption. How can he do so if he doesn’t even know he has a child?

        Having a child without being married is a shameful thing. It used to be that everybody knew this and acknowledged it. On what basis do you claim everyone then was wrong, and you are right? Are people now wiser than every single generation that preceded us?!

        And the Bible says a married girl who commits adultery while still living with her parents should be executed in front of their home, specifically so that they should be ashamed at their failure to raise her properly. That’s what the Bible really says about shaming wrongdoers.

If he had said that unwed mothers on welfare should be publicly shamed, I would have had to reconsider my refusal to vote for him.

Henry Hawkins | June 10, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Bush is often clumsy with his words, but it sounded to me like he laments the loss of previous cultural moral norms which held unwed mothers in disdain and shame, the avoidance of which helped keep the numbers down. Such norms did not seek to shame formatically, the shame was one of many responses to behaviors believed immoral to a prevailing majority of the population. That level of societal shame still exists – and it should – for behaviors such as child abuse, molestation, and rape. These are motivated very differently, compulsively, and shame has no affect other than to drive them underground with it.

‘Shame’ seems to me a very difficult thing to affect via a government program or policy – how does one codeify, measure, or define ‘shame’? – so if Jeb really advocated shaming, he probably meant to do it through churches and the religious communities rather than as any government thing, that is, a social movement, not a government program. .

Unwed mothers should be Publicly shamed!

Unwed mothers are unwed mothers because they either (1) didn’t secure a commitment from a man before sleeping with him, or (2) got divorced. And, given that 80+% of divorces are woman initiated, divorced unwed mothers are fairly characterized as women who kicked dad out of the house. Some (less than 5%) divorced unwed mothers were abused, and some unwed mothers are widows, but unwed mothers who don’t zip their pants or kick dad out of the house are horrible people.

Dads matter. Fathers are important for kids to have. Women who deny their kids a father for selfish reason (the overwhelming majority of unwed mothers) are shameful people.

If he was out there saying this now, I’d have to reevaluate my dislike for the guy.

Instead he’s going to pander to unwed mothers who won’t vote for him anyways, like every other Republican.

I’m not sure how you don’t read that as endorsing shaming of women who give birth of out of wedlock.

Publicly condemn – shame
title – shame
attach a stigma – shame
attach a sense of ridicule – shame
Title of the passage – shame

You are really splitting hairs if you are claiming he doesn’t endorse public shaming because he doesn’t use the exact words “I endorse public shaming.”

In the second quote he goes on to endorse public shaming for children. I don’t really have an opinion of Jeb one way or the other yet, but your article is completely disingenous. The Huffington post article did a fair job of summarizing Mr Bush’s words, including quotations and pretty extensive context. You include even more, but it continues to support their argument. According to his own words, he does support public shaming of women who have children out of wedlock. It is extremely clear and he uses multiple words that are functionally synonymous to emphasize the point. At this point I’m wondering if there is a real disconnect between your comprehension of his writings and reality, or you are just so desperate to discredit the original article you don’t mind ignoring truth to so so.

I would like to agree with previous commenters that he is lamenting the abandonment of public shaming of unwed mothers, but further, he wants to restore the practice, thus stigmatizing their behavior (having premarital sex) and preventing it. Of course he isn’t proposing legislation to force public shaming or anything silly like that, it is his personal view, along with the view of many of your readers who have agreed with the sentiment. I think, if one were to ask him (and he to answer honestly) he would say that unwed mothers should be publicly shamed; in the absence of such humiliation, he would argue, promiscuous behavior is implicitly condoned and accepted.

Henry Hawkins | June 10, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Has Jeb gone on the record about public floggings? Yea? Nay?

EricRasmusen | June 12, 2015 at 8:36 am

The liberal position seems to be:
1. There is nothing wrong with being an unwed mother, and nobody should be ashamed of it.
2. It is horrible to reveal publicly that someone is an unwed mother because it is so shameful.

It’s like with abortion; they feel in their hearts it’s wrong and would be mortified if their children did it, but they don’t want to admit it.

BrooklynGirl | June 12, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Rather Jeb Bush was promoting the idea of publicly shaming unwed mothers or simply reminiscing of when it was acceptable….what he DIDN’T do was suggest that MEN bear any responsible for the state of unwed mothers. But typical for conservative men to ‘slut shame’ women as if we immaculate concept.