White House defends Kelly's Civil War remarks

The White House on Tuesday defended chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE a day after he defended Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as “an honorable man” and said a lack of "compromise" led to the Civil War.

“All of our leaders have flaws,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during the daily press briefing. “Washington, Jefferson, JFK, Roosevelt, Kennedy — that doesn’t diminish their contributions to our country and it certainly can’t erase them from our history, and Gen. Kelly was simply making the point that just because history isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean that it’s not our history.”

When pressed on whether the Trump administration acknowledged that Kelly’s comments could be seen as offensive to some, Sanders did not budge.


“No, because as I said before I think that you can’t — because you don’t like history doesn’t mean that you can erase it and pretend that it didn’t happen, and I think that’s the point that Gen. Kelly was trying to make,” she said.

Kelly on Monday night was discussing the Confederate statue debate on Fox News’s “The Ingraham Angle” when he said the Civil War was caused by “a lack of ability to compromise.”

Sanders said many historians would agree with the retired four-star general on that point.

"I do know that many historians, including Shelby Foote in Ken Burns' famous Civil War documentary, agreed that a failure to compromise was a cause of the Civil War," she said. 

"There are a lot of historians that think that and there a lot of different versions of those compromises. I’m not going to get up here and relitigate the Civil War, but there’s certainly, I think some historical documentation that many people…believe that if some of the individuals engaged had been willing to come to some compromises on different things than it may not have occurred."

Kelly also repeated comments made by President Trump, who has defended the memorials as an important part of U.S. “heritage.”

Kelly called Lee “an honorable man” who gave up his country to fight for his state.

“I don’t think that we should sit here and debate every moment of history. I think those moments took place. There are moments that we’re going to be a lot less proud of than others but we can’t erase the fact that they happened. I think you have to determine where that line is,” Sanders said.

Appearing to grow frustrated with questions on the topic, Sanders accused reporters of creating “a narrative that simply doesn’t exist.”

“The media continues to want to make this and push that this is some sort of a racially charged and divided White House ... and I think it is absurd and disgraceful to keep trying to make comments and take them out of context to mean something they simply don’t,” she said.