VA secretary on Confederate monuments: 'You have to respect people's opinions'

VA secretary on Confederate monuments: 'You have to respect people's opinions'
© Greg Nash

Veterans Affairs Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinOn paper, Wilkie is the perfect candidate for VA secretary, but his qualifications go further VA nominee heads to full Senate confirmation The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Anticipation builds for Trump’s SCOTUS pick MORE weighed in on the heated debate over whether to remove Confederate monuments across the country, saying Americans must be cognizant of each other's feelings amid simmering racial tensions. 

“We can see from the events of this week that words matter, and you have to respect people’s opinions. So we’ve been very careful to respect the historic aspects as well as respecting the way that these Confederate monuments make people feel, and finding that right balance is exactly what we’re seeing throughout the rest of the country," Shulkin told Fox News's Jesse Watters on "Watters' World" Saturday. 

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Shulkin's comments come as Confederate monuments across the U.S. have been taken down or defaced after violence erupted in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend when white supremacists protested the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. 

President Trump stirred controversy when he defended protesters fighting to preserve the monuments and equated Lee with historical figures including former President George Washington. 

“I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it,” the president said. 

"And you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I'll say it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent," he continued. 

“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?” he said.