President Donald Trump | YouTube, ABC News

The Facts

  • President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning:

“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 statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?… Are we going to take down his statue? Because he was a major slave owner.”

The Context

  • President Trump’s tweets came five days after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
    • Members of the right — including white nationalists and neo-Nazis — had gathered in Charlottesville to protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
  • One woman was killed and 19 others were injured after a white nationalist protester allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
  • Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said to the white supremacist protesters in a press conference on Saturday:

“You pretend that you are patriots, but you are anything but a patriot. You want to talk about patriots? Talk about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, who brought our country together. . . We are stronger than you. You have made our commonwealth stronger. You will not succeed. There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.”

“Watching Charlottesville, what I didn’t want to see happen in Baltimore was that same kind of protest, and certainly not the loss of life. . . We had planned to do it late at night so that we would avoid traffic, avoid protests, avoid crowds. I just thought it was the right way to do it.”

  • According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there are more than 700 Confederate monuments in the United States — most of which were not erected until a generation after the Civil War, during the beginning of the Jim Crow-era in the South.
    • A second wave of dedications and re-dedications of Confederate statues occurred during the Civil Rights Movement, as “the civil rights movement led to a backlash among segregationists,” according to SPLC.

Supporters of Trump’s Statements

  • Corey Stewart, Trump’s former campaign chairman in Virginia, who also plans to run against Sen. Tim Kaine (Virginia) in 2018, told CNN:

“The President is absolutely right. After they get done removing statues to Confederate generals because, arguably, they fought to preserve the institution of slavery, they are going right after slave owners, including the founders — Jefferson, Madison, Washington — and when you undermine the founding fathers, you undermine the founding documents, namely the Constitution of the United States.”

“President Trump, by asking, ‘Where does this all end’ — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln — connects with the American people about their history, culture and traditions. . . The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it’s all racist. Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can’t get enough of it.”

Critics of Trump’s Statements

  • W. Fitzhugh Brundage, a historian at the University of North Carolina, told the New York Times:

“You’re not erasing history. You’re just transforming a landscape so that you can make it one you’re comfortable living in.”

  • Jack and Warren Christian, great-great-grandsons of Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson wrote a letter to the mayor of Richmond calling for the removal of their ancestor’s statue and all other Confederate monuments in the city’s Monument Avenue. The letter, which was published in its entirety on Slate, read in part:

“They (the monuments) are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display. Overnight, Baltimore has seen fit to take this action. Richmond should, too. . .

Last weekend, Charlottesville showed us unequivocally that Confederate statues offer pre-existing iconography for racists. The people who descended on Charlottesville last weekend were there to make a naked show of force for white supremacy. To them, the Robert E. Lee statue is a clear symbol of their hateful ideology. The Confederate statues on Monument Avenue are, too—especially Jackson, who faces north, supposedly as if to continue the fight. . . While we are not ashamed of our great-great-grandfather, we are ashamed to benefit from white supremacy while our black family and friends suffer. We are ashamed of the monument. . .

As cities all over the South are realizing now, we are not in need of added context. We are in need of a new context—one in which the statues have been taken down.”

Seamus Anderson contributed to this report. 

The Whim News Team

The Whim News Desk

We'd rather be second and accurate than be first and wrong. The Whim News Desk is a dedicated team of researchers and investigators committed to presenting the news without bias. Follow us @TheWhimOnline for daily news coverage without the spin!

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