White House chief of staff John Kelly on Monday called Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as an "honorable man" and suggested that a lack of compromise led to the Civil War.
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“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly said in an interview on Fox News on Monday evening. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But 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.”
Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, did not elaborate on how the Civil War could have been prevented through compromise.
His comments echoed those of President Donald Trump, who has pushed back against the removal of Confederate monuments, including those honoring Lee.
“This week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” Trump said in a August.
That statement came in the wake of an outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia — which began in protest of the planned removal of a Lee monument — that left one person dead and 19 others injured after a car ramming. Police arrested James Alex Fields, 20, and charged him with second-degree murder in the attack.
Major cities and institutions across the country have opted to remove or relocate Confederate statues this year, with many calling them symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.
In August the University of Texas at Austin, for example, said it would remove statues of Lee and three other Confederate generals because they were erected during the period of segregation and “represent the subjugation of African-Americans.”