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Owning slaves doesn't make a person racist, says New Hampshire lawmaker

A Republican New Hampshire state lawmaker says he doesn't think owning slaves makes a person a racist, an opinion he expressed on both Facebook and in an interview with the Huffington Post.

In a Facebook exchange first reported by the New Hampshire Union Leader, GOP state Rep. Werner Horn and former state Sen. Dan Hynes were discussing an article Hynes had posted, which contained a historian's claim that Mr. Trump was the "most racist president in American history." Hynes pointed out that past presidents had owned slaves. 

"Wait, owning slaves doesn't make you racist..." Horn said in reply to the post, to which Hynes replied, "I guess not." 

Horn also said in the Facebook conversation that "owning slaves wasn't a decision predicated on race but on economics. It's a business decision."

Horn further confirmed to the Huffington Post that he had written the comment and said, "Human beings have been owning other human beings since the dawn of time. It's never been about race." But while he stands by this statement, he also told the HuffPost that "slavery's not OK" and it's "never OK to own another person."

The New Hampshire Republican Party disavowed Horn's comments. "Representative Horn is wrong and his comments are not based in our platform's belief in free people, free markets and free enterprise. Slavery throughout its history in the United States was a racist, inhuman, and immoral practice," New Hampshire GOP Chair Stephen Stepanek said in a statement provided to CBS News. 

The New Hampshire legislature has hundreds of members, and both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature have Democratic majorities. Horn represents a mixed region that President Trump won in 2016, where several House seats flipped from Republican to Democratic in 2018. 

Hynes, the former state senator who has since deleted the original post to his Facebook account, explained his comments further in a separate Facebook post, saying he does believe slavery was based on racism. 

"Some people are inferring I believe slavery was not racist," Hynes wrote. "I thought my comment was clearly sarcastic as could be seen by the context of my comments. Since that is not the case, I have removed the post, since I fully believe slavery in America was based on racism. And I do not wish to have people use my comments as a basis for support of either slavery or racism."

— CBS News' Nicole Sganga and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report 

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