McConnell likens himself to Obama: 'We both are the descendants of slave owners'

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By Rebecca Shabad  with NBC News Politics
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to his office on Capitol Hill on June 28, 2019.   -   Copyright  Mark Wilson Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday confirmed that he is a descendant of slave owners and reiterated that he still opposes U.S. government reparations for descendants of American slaves.

At a press conference following a closed-door luncheon with Senate Republicans, McConnell was asked whether he was aware that two of his great-great grandfathers were slave owners in Alabama before the Civil War and whether the revelation would cause him to reconsider his position on reparations.

"I find myself once again in the same position as President [Barack] Obama. We both oppose reparations and we both are the descendants of slave owners," he said, before moving onto another question.

McConnell did not say whether he knew that his two great-great grandfathers owned slaves prior to an NBC News report published Monday.

The majority leader's two great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned a total of at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama — all but two of them female, according to the county "Slave Schedules" in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.

The details about McConnell's ancestors, which were discovered by NBC News through a search of ancestry and census records, came in the wake of recent hearings on reparations before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

Asked about the reparations issue a few weeks ago, McConnell told reporters thathe was opposed to the idea, arguing it would be hard to figure out whom to compensate.

"I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, when none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea," he said June 18, a day before the House reparations hearing. "We've tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We've elected an African American president."

During the 2008 election, an amateur genealogist found that on his white mother's side, Obama had a great-great-great grandfather named George Washington Overall who owned two male slaves in Kentucky. The genealogist, William Reitwiesner, also found that Obama's great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Duvall, also owned a pair of slaves.