CBC chair: Kelly’s Civil War comments part of Trump attempts to ‘whitewash history’

Greg Nash

The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus on Tuesday went after White House chief of staff John Kelly for his claim that a “lack of an ability to compromise” led to the Civil War.

In a statement released Tuesday, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said Kelly “needs a history lesson.”

“The Civil War was not a disagreement between ‘men and women of good faith on both sides,'” Richmond said in the statement.

“It was a struggle for the soul of this country,” he added.


“The Congressional Black Caucus is not surprised by the Trump White House’s repeated attempts to whitewash history or by its continued inability to apologize when it is flat out wrong.”

The comments come after Kelly argued during a Monday interview that “history is history” and Confederate statues should stay where they are for the sake of heritage.

“There are certain things in history that were good, and other things that were not so good,” Kelly said on Fox News, defending Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as an “honorable man.”

“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.”

The issue of Confederate statues and memorials has held the spotlight since August, when white nationalists held a rally in Charlottesville, Va., at the site of a statue of Lee the city had voted to take down. That rally turned deadly when a driver with white supremacist ties allegedly plowed his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring dozens of others. 

President Trump caused an uproar days later when he said there was “blame on both sides” and “very fine people” among the “Unite the Right” activists.”

“Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee,” Trump said at the time.

The White House on Tuesday defended Kelly’s latest comments defending Lee, saying “all of our leaders have flaws.”

“Washington, Jefferson, JFK, Roosevelt, Kennedy — that doesn’t diminish their contributions to our country and it certainly can’t erase them from our history,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the daily briefing.

“And Gen. Kelly was simply making the point that just because history isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean that it’s not our history.”

Richmond also faulted Kelly for standing by his previous statements about Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), who had accused Trump of being disrespectful during a phone call with a Gold Star widow.

“We continue to call on General Kelly to apologize for his lies about Congresswoman Wilson. He is starting to sound a lot like his boss.”

The call for an apology comes after Kelly held a press conference earlier this month in which he defended the president’s version of the call and portrayed Wilson as a shameless self-promotor. Kelly also claimed Wilson took credit for the funding of a Florida FBI field office at its opening ceremony.

A video of Wilson’s 2015 speech contradicted Kelly’s charge.

—Updated at 4:26 p.m.

Tags Confederate statues Congressional Black Caucus Frederica Wilson John Kelly
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