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Donald Trump's education pick Betsy DeVos blames "clerical error" for years as VP of anti-LGBT foundation

Listing dating back to the 1990s is "incorrect"

Thomas Goulding
Wednesday 18 January 2017 21:28 GMT
Betsy DeVos blames 'clerical error' for years as VP of anti-LGBT foundation

Donald Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Education has claimed that records showing her to be vice president of a foundation that funds anti-LGBTQ organisations were a a “clerical error".

Betsy DeVos told her Senate confirmation hearing that the listings were “incorrect” despite records dating back to the 1990s apparently showing otherwise.

Senators confronted her about a perceived history of association between Ms DeVos’ family and anti-LGBTQ organisations, in a heated and often contentious hearing at the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

One, Maggie Hassan told Ms DeVos she had records listing her as Vice President of the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation.

Run by Ms DeVos’ mother, it has donated more than $5 million (£4 million) to Focus on the Family, a group that supports gay conversion therapy, she said.

But Ms DeVos said: "I can assure you, I have never made decisions on my mother’s behalf, on her foundation board.”

Focus on the Family also oppose non-discrimination legislation designed to protect LGBTQ people, as well as campaigning against marriage equality and same-sex adoption.

The DeVos family have given over $10 million (£8.1 million) to Focus on the Family in recent years. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation specifically, has given the group $275,000 (£223,000) from 1999 to 2001.

Ms DeVos attempted to distance herself from these ties, saying that these donations are her family’s and not her own, and that she would “embrace equality” for all students.

“I firmly believe in the intrinsic value of each individual and that every student should have the assurance of a safe and discrimination-free place to become educated, and I want to restate those principles,” she said.

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A history of anti-LGBTQ campaigns from Ms DeVos has worried members of that community.

Together with her husband Dick, Ms DeVos put an anti-gay marriage amendment onto Michigan ballots in 2004, contributing $200,000 (£162,000) to the ultimately successful campaign.

Senator Al Franken confronted Ms DeVos directly about the issue, asking her whether she “still believed in gay conversion therapy”.

She replied that she "never believed in that.”

The hearing covered a number of contentious issues, including the funding of the country’s public schools, and the fact Ms DeVos’ family has donated $200 million (£162 million) to the Republican Party.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders suggested that this was the reason she was picked for the role.

Ms DeVos also argued that the threat from grizzly bears justified guns being allowed in some schools, after Donald Trump had suggested that gun-free zones around schools may be abolished.

Referring to an elementary school in Wyoming that built a fence as protection from wildlife, she said: “I think probably there, I would imagine that there's probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies”.

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