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Jeb Bush called for 'public shaming' of unmarried mothers in 1995 book

Republican at centre of controversy after comments resurfaced

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 10 June 2015 17:15 BST
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(Getty Images)

Jeb Bush, one of the leading Republicans with his eyes on the White House, is at the centre of controversy the resurfacing of segments of a book he wrote 20 years ago in which he proposed “shaming” unmarried mothers.

In the 1995 book Profiles in Character, Mr Bush suggested that public shaming would be an effective way to control the “irresponsible behaviour” of unmarried mothers, misbehaving teenagers and welfare recipients.

The Huffington Post reported this week that in a chapter called The Restoration of Shame, Mr Bush argued that restoring the art of public humiliation could help prevent pregnancies “out of wedlock”.

“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 behaviour, no reason to feel shame,” he wrote.

“Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbours have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behaviour.

“There was a time when neighbours and communities would frown on out of wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.”

The Post said Mr Bush pointed to Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter, in which the main character is forced to wear a large red "A" for "adulterer" on her clothes to punish her for having an extramarital affair, as a model for his worldview.

"Infamous shotgun weddings and Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter are reminders that public condemnation of irresponsible sexual behaviour has strong historical roots,” he wrote.

When he became Florida Governor in 1999, Mr had the chance to try out his theories and 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.

Mr Bush, who is currently in Europe, has not commented on the controversy sparked by the content of his 1995 tome. Some political commentators have suggested that the the segments were spread by his opponents.

Mr Bush is expected to make his formal announcement that is to make a run for the presidency on Monday in Miami. He will be joining a busy Republican field. Ten have formally declared and the same number have expressed an interest.

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