House Republican calls for taking confederate monuments off pedestals


Confederate monuments in the U.S. Capitol should either be removed from the building and relocated to a museum or battlefield, or be appropriately contextualized as a symbol of slavery, a Republican lawmaker said Thursday.

“When they’re in the Capitol, they’re almost in a place of reverence. And I don’t think that we should revere what those guys stood for. I think the right side won the war,” Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told The Hill in an interview.

“If the context was right in describing who he was and what he was fighting for, so people understand that he was fighting to keep slavery as part of this country — I guess as long as it’s put in context — but I don’t like the site of the one in Charlottesville [Va.], where he’s way up on a pedestal, literally,” he continued, referring to a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that sparked protests over the weekend.

{mosads}“It’s almost like he’s an idol, and I don’t think that that’s right.”

On Saturday, a white supremacist rally to protest the removal of the Lee statue in Charlottesville ended in the death of a 32-year-old woman — prompting deep scrutiny of the appropriateness of displaying Confederate memorabilia, primarily from Democrats.

The Congressional Black Caucus this week called for the removal of Confederate statues from the Capitol — a campaign backed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) plans to introduce legislation in the Senate that would do just that.

A spokesperson for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the decision should be left up to the states. Under the current rules, each of the 50 states can display two statues in the U.S. Capitol. Those statues can be replaced by the governors and legislatures of those states.

There are at least nine Confederate statues in the U.S. Capitol, including one of Lee.

President Trump on Thursday took to Twitter to defend the preservation of the statues, repeating an argument he made during a press conference on Tuesday, during which he claimed that memorials to George Washington would be the next to be torn down.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” he tweeted Thursday.

Multiple cities in the South — including Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederacy, and Lexington, Ky. — are contemplating either planned or hastened removals of Confederate monuments. In other cities, like Leesburg, Va., and Durham, N.C., statues have been vandalized or torn down.

Rooney, who represents Florida but was born in Pennsylvania, insisted that he does not support the destruction of the statues.

“I don’t think you should erase what your history is, good or bad,” he said. “I don’t want to see those statues destroyed — but I think there’s a better place for them in a place that’s not a place of reverence. I don’t know where that is, whether it be a museum or on a battlefield or something like that.

“But when you put a statute like that in a Capitol or in a town square, then it’s almost like you’re idolizing that person or that cause or that flag — and that’s wrong, I think.”

— Cristina Marcos, Scott Wong and Mike Lillis contributed.

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