At President Trump’s heated press conference Tuesday afternoon, he strongly defended statues and symbols representing the Confederacy. Insisting that not all of the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville this weekend were bad people, Trump explained that some “were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee.”
“This week it’s Lee,” he went on. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. Is it George Washington next week and Jefferson the week after? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” When asked specifically his opinion on whether to keep Confederate statues, Trump said, “I would say that’s up to a local town, government, community, depending on where it’s located.”
A few questions later, Trump again reiterated that “you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides” in Charlottesville. “You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”
George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down — excuse me. Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of him? Do you like him? Okay. Good. Are we going to take down the statue? He was a major slave owner. So we’ll take down his statue. It’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture.
Many of the people were there to “innocently protest,” he said.
General Robert E. Lee has been heroicized by many, but as Adam Serwer explained earlier this year, white supremacists “have every reason to admire him. Lee, whose devotion to white supremacy outshone his loyalty to his country, is the embodiment of everything they stand for.”