President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to lament the removal of Confederate monuments.
“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump tweeted. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”
TOPPLED: Momentum grows to remove Confederate statues DUEL: Trump, Graham spar on Twitter over Charlottesville
It was a similar line of reasoning to one the president had floated in an impromptu press conference Tuesday in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. Trump’s remarks at that press conference were widely condemned, including by many in his own party.
The president’s comments effectively wiped away the more conventional statement he delivered at the White House one day earlier when he branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.” Trump’s advisers had hoped those remarks might quell a crush of criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
The president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort. During an impromptu press conference in the lobby of his Manhattan skyscraper, he praised his original response to Charlottesville and angrily blamed liberal groups in addition to white supremacist for the violence.
Some of those protesting the rally to save a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee were “also very violent,” he said.
The decision by Charlottesville, Virginia to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was the ostensible reason for a gathering of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in that city over the weekend. A torchlight march on Friday was followed by a protest gathering on Saturday that rapidly devolved into violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters.
One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when a car smashed into a group of counter-protesters. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, is charged with second-degree murder.
On Monday, protesters in Durham, North Carolina toppled a nearly century-old statue of a Confederate soldier at a rally against racism. Activists brought a ladder up to the statue and used a rope to pull down the Confederate Soldiers Monument that was dedicated in 1924. A crowd of dozens cheered as the statue of a soldier holding a rifle fell to the ground in front of an old courthouse building that now houses local government offices.
Early Wednesday, the city of Baltimore moved quickly to remove several Confederate monuments, including one honoring Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson, another Confederate military leader.
Contributing: Associated Press