After White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was “an honorable man” and suggested that the Civil War could have been avoided if an “ability to compromise” had been demonstrated, Twitter went berserk and dubbed Kelly a “racist.”
In an interview that aired Monday on the new Fox News show “The Ingraham Angle,” Ingraham asked Kelly about the recent decision by the historic Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, to remove plaques from pews where President George Washington and Gen. Robert E. Lee once sat, and about removal of such historic markers. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, said that Lee, in particular, was “an honorable man” and that removing monuments and historical markers represented “a lack of appreciation of history.”
"There are certain things in history that were good, and other things that were not so good," Kelly told Ingraham. "The lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand."
In the aftermath of Kelly's interview, the terms "Civil War," "Confederacy" and "#RobertELee" began trending on Twitter as the social media platform erupted in condemnation of Kelly's defense of recognizing national history.
Walter Shaub, who served as the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics until his resignation in July, tweeted, "It appears John Kelly is going as a racist for Halloween. I suspect he's also going as one for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday …"
Ta-Nehisi Coates, an author and national correspondent for The Atlantic, issued a series of tweets responding to Kelly's Civil War comments, as well as his refusal to apologize to African-American Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) after an ongoing spat.
"Been a lot of hemming and hawing over the term 'white supremacist.' Fools who won't be satisfied until Trump literally lynches someone," Coates tweeted.
"But, like, when the 'adult in the room' believes a war for slavery was honorable ... Believes that the torturer of humans, vendor of people, who led that war was honorable ... When that dude portrays a sitting member of Congress as some shucking and jiving hustler ... When he sticks by that portrayal of a black women, in the face of clear video evidence, when he has so descended into the dream ... You really do see the effect of white supremacy," he concluded.
Historian and educator Kevin M. Levin tweeted, "When John Kelly praises a man like Gen. #RobertELee it leaves serious questions as to whether he will defend our constitution."
CNBC co-anchor Jon Fortt tweeted, "Robert E. Lee was not an honorable man. Kelly's statements about the Civil War show a surprising lack of knowledge of U.S. history."
Bernice King, daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted, "It's irresponsible & dangerous, especially when white supremacists feel emboldened, to make fighting to maintain slavery sound courageous."
Following is the full text of what Kelly said:
Well, history's history. And there are certain things in history that were not so good and other things that were very, very good. I think, I think we make a mistake, though, and as a society and certainly as, as individuals, when we take what is today accepted as right and wrong and go back 100, 200, 300 years or more and say what those, you know, what Christopher Columbus did was wrong. You know, 500 years later, it's inconceivable to me that you would take what we think now and apply it back then.
I mean, human history, our culture is an evolving thing. There will be 100 or 200 years from now people that criticize us for what we do and I guess they'll tear down, you know, statues of people that we revere today. I think it's — it's dangerous, I think. You know, one of the — well, I think it's just very, very dangerous and it shows you what, how much of a lack of appreciation of history and what history is.
Last Modified: October 31, 2017, 12:15 pm